Typographic art

Futurism, Dadaism and Visual Poetry (Concrete Poetry)

Typography and art inspired by Typography is one of my favorite type of art, especially when the words arranged on the canvas convey the meaning of the text. Typography as an art form began several years ago, prior to the invention of creative writing. It’s features were beautifully and perfectly carved by scribes and literate people. Typography was seen as an art, it represented a high status and made words written on a paper, a precious item.

Typography may have been an art used with some poetry forms in earlier periods but was overtaken by drawings and paintings afterwards. Several art movements were based on different techniques of paintings, most of the poet artists discussed in this research and other poet artists from their era, they portrayed poems with paintings or their artistic pieces were paintings.

Modern arts were applied by Post-Nineteeneth century artists. The Futurism movement began by Italian poet in 1909. Futurism, an Italian avant-garde art movement that took speed, technology and modernity as its inspiration was a self-invented art movement. The works produced by futuristic artists, authors and scholars reflected their interest in the 2oth Century life, war, the machine age and Fascism.
However, Futurism began a new art and poetry movement that relied on the use of the “letters” or alphabets to create meaning.

After Futurism, Dadaism was a another movement that used typography as one of the main artworks. Dadaism was quite a bizarre movement because it was very diverse and went against the conventions of art as it was known – which was the main aim of the movement. With Futurism and Dadaism, words were considered images and not exactly supposed to make sense to the audience. The words were formed from different letters mixed together, after the 20th Century, art and poetry took new turns because they both moved away from the expected to the unexpected. Both disciplines could be used together on a canvas of work.

"Zang Tumb Tumb" - a sound poem published by Marinetti in1914

In the 21st century, poetic art can be simple and structured if the creator wants it to be. Visual poetry, creates poetry that can be seen with the visual arrangement of text, images and symbols to convey the meaning of the poem. Concrete poetry is very organised and though the process of creation can be complex, the main message or symbol of the poem can be easily understood. The image below shows this quite clearly

Cross, by John Ecko. From the book "Signs of Life"

The art movement of the 20th Century was Futurism, it inspired and was inspired by other art movements. Typography art has became one of the fundamental topics of Graphic Design and it is still evolving.

Image of Zang Tump Tump art by Marinetti
URL: http://designhistorylab.com/students/dickens/?p=533

Cross, visual poetry by John Ecko

Futurism Information


Haika and Haiga, Japanese Poetry and Painting

Haika, Hokku and Haikai are related forms of traditional Japanese poetry. The three terms are often confused with each other, it has been practised since the 17th century with Hokku masters Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa. In the 1890s, the poetry was to be written, read and understood as an independent poem, it was now referred to as Haiku, the plural of ‘Haika’. So the old form of poetry was Hokku and the moderm form is Haiku.

Haiku today, consists of upto 17 syllables, it traditionally depicting a fleeting moment of a given season. Haiku is written in the Japanese writing which is Calligraphy, a form of act on its own.
Although, Haiga – the artistic side is said to go with Haikai instead of Haiku/Haika, it is still an aspect of Haiku.

Haiku and Haiga, work together, they are meant to complement and not explain, one another – the poetry is Haiku and Haiga is the painting. “Haiga is Haiku, Calligraphy and Painting” and it has it traits. In traditional Haiga paintings, a simplistic use of ink brush strokes and light color is used.

This is one of the example of Haiku(the poetry) by Matsuo Basho adapted with haiga(painting). The poetry is called Mogami River.

Digital Artwork by kuni_san, of Haiku "Mogami River" by Matsuo Basho

Poetry and Art have several influences of their own, each poet and artist will produce work based on their influences. For instance.

Haika is influenced by Nature, Culture and Calligraphy…whiles
Haiga is influenced by imagery, one’s imagination, the calligraphy of the Haiku, nature and any art technique.

Hokku, Haiku and Haikai information
URL: http://www.toyomasu.com/haiku/

Mogami River Haiga by Kuni_San

Title: The Haiga: Haiku, Calligraphy, and Painting
URL: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5940

Title: Poetry Review: Matsuo Basho

Photography and Poetry

An Interview with God – a presentation movie

An Interview with God

This is one of my favorite inspirational creations, An Interview with God might not necessarily being a poem but a story based the author’s relationship with God and how He(God) sees us and cares for us(mankind) as His children.

The use of imagery to represent God – we don’t know how He looks like, it uses beautiful images of nature. Although the message in the poem is quite sad, the images convey positivity and hope. In the end, the message is uplifting, the three features of the presentation enforce the message of the poem: the imagery, the words and the music.


Website – An Interview with God
URL: http://www.theinterviewwithgod.com/popup-frame.html

Digital Poetry

Poetry and Digital Art – Digital Poetry

Digital poetry is a new genre of literary, visual, and sonic art launched by poets who experimented with computers in the late 1950s. Digital poetry is an evolving process, employing various techniques that began to form well before the advent of the personal computer and continues to refine itself in today’s World Wide Web (WWW) environment. Labels such as “e-poetry,” “cyberpoetry,” and “computer poetry” have been used to describe creative work in this area.
Extract from http://www.digitalhumanities.org by Christopher Funkhouser

mmm Skyscraper, I Love You(1994)

Preview of mmm Skyscraper, I Love You...book cover

mmm, Skyscraper, I love you is a book which features typographic images from the streets of New York. It was created by design group Tomato, Karl Hyde and John Warwicker. Who were also core members of the British Techno Band, Underworld. A few of the typographic artwork appears in some of their videos such as Dark Train.

Album cover for Dubnobasswithmyheadman

Also, the cover art for Underworld’s album Dubnobasswithmyheadman was taken from the book mmm Skyscraper, I Love You. Their experimental videos from the album is made by Tomato design members from the Band.

Digital Poetry by Jason Nelson
Jason Nelson designs art games based on interactive poetry, his poetry explores various subjects: politics, new media culture, web 2.0, history and news affair.

Jason Nelson, an interactive poetry game

This one is called “i made this. you play this. we are enemies”, it is based on the internet, web 2.0 and google. Click here for the link to the game. The website has 4 games and a bonus game.

Chris Joseph – Digital art
Chris Joseph describes himself as an electronic writer. His works include text, images and video, sounds, etc. Most of his poetry are flash animations.
This is a image of one of his poems

An image of System variations

Title:Digital Poetry: A Look at Generative, Visual, and Interconnected Possibilities in its First Four Decades

Jason Nelson, digital poetry

Chris Joseph – digital fiction, electronic poetry, digital art, music

Poetry in the 19th Century: David Jones

David Jones(1895-1974)

Walter David Jones(full name) was born in Brockley, Kent on November 1st, 1895 to a Welsh Father. At an early age, Jones was interested in art and very talented, as early as the age of seven, his sketch Dancing Bear, attracted some attention and was showcased at the Royal Drawing Society.

In 1909, he attended classes at the Camberwell Art School, he was inspired by magazines but after moving through this course, he was determined to pursue a career as an animal illustrator or a painter of Welsh History. In January 1915, he enlisted to join the Royal Welch Fusiliers were serviced in France and the Flaunders. After his army service in 1918, he return to studying art in the Westminster School of Art and quit after two years. In 1921, he converted from Protestantism to Catholicism and meet with Eric Gill an engraver and sculptor. He joined Eric Gill at Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic at Ditchling where craftsmen work for a living and reputation, he was not successful with learning carpentry and decided on wood and copper engraving, he still continued to make illustrations.

After eight years of ups and downs in his life, he was elected to the Seven and Five Society. In 1929, he began working on his piece In Parenthesis an epic war poem which explored the parallels in the experiences of the soldiers in World War One with the experiences of those who had gone to war before. In the same year, he produced ten children’s illustrations.

One of David Jones's illustrations from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner engravings(1929)

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was the longest major poems by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and was published in 1798.

David Jones, one of his Painted Inscriptions

The image above shows one of his Painted Inscriptions, it was part of his long narrative In Parenthesis. Painted Inscriptions is a genre of its own. For me, it looks like a primitive form of typographic collage. The piece is very deep, it represents the personality of David Jones, his beliefs and it is how he interprets a text.

Between 1928 to 1932, David Jones went traveling, however, the later year, he suffered a mental breakdown from his experiences as a solider. Due to this mental condition, he did not produce any art for five years. In 1937, when he had recovered, he finally published his would-be famous piece In Parenthesis.
During the Second World War, he settled in London between this period and before the last four years of his life, he added Painted Inscription(a work made of abstract symbols), The Anathemata and some still-paintings to his collection. He suffered another metal breakdown in 1947 but preserved in continuing his art.

From 1970 to 1974, Walter D. Jones lived in a nursing home following an incident that led to a broken hip bone. David Jones died in 1974, in the same year, ‘The Hunt’ and ‘The Sleeping Lord’ were published. After his death in 1981, ‘The Roman Quarry’ was published.

Title: First World War.com – Prose & Poetry – David Jones
URL: http://www.firstworldwar.com/poetsandprose/jones_david.htm

Image: David Jones and the Ancient Mariner
URL: http://www.friendsofcoleridge.com/MembersOnly/larkin_D_Jones.htm”>http://www.friendsofcoleridge.com/MembersOnly/larkin_D_Jones.htm

Title: The dense mythology of David Jones’ watercolours at National Museum Cardiff
By:Richard Moss | 10 November 2011
URL: http://www.culture24.org.uk/art/painting+%26+drawing/art367839

Painters and Poets: Dante Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882)

Dante Rossetti was born in London, on the 12 May 1828 to parents of Italian descent. Although, he was British, his works were heavily influence by his Italian heritage. The family seems to have had a gift in artistic forms, his brother William Marcel was a writer and a critic and his sister Christina was a celebrated poet. Rossetti’s early begins was as a poet and a painter, and he was difficulty in choosing which of his talents to focus on.
On the artistic side, he attended artistic institutions for training, first Carey’s Academy then the Royal Academy, Dante Rossetti’s way of painting was very different, and he could not fit into the “proper” artistic training that they taught. He left the academic institutions and trained with Ford Madox Brown and later William Holman Hunt. Even in the private institutions, he still was some frustrations. However, Rossetti and Hunt developed a strong relationship, in 1848 as a result of their relationship, they formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood(1), along with five other men.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti continued to paint, his main influence being the Medievals. During these periods, he was introduced to Elizabeth Siddal who had been modelling for one of the members of the P-R Brotherhood, she was later to become his late wife. Elizabeth Siddal was a red-haired model, she and Rossetti developed a close relationship, Rossetti was fond of her and used her in many of his paintings. After courting for a couple of years, they finally got married in 1850, only 12 years after, she died of an overdose of Laudanum(2) in 1862.
This may have had an effect on Dante, as his paintings took on a different direction. Beata Betrix began in 1864.
‘a kind of Dantesque memorial to Siddal, represented a new genre of single iconic female figures, often wearing exotic dress and placed in richly decorated interiors, which became prominent in his oeuvre.’
Source: http://www.artmagick.com/pictures/artist.aspx?artist=dante-gabriel-rossetti

Rossetti used more models in his paintings. In the mid-1860s, another red-haired lady grabbed his attention. Fanny Cornforth became his model and his mistress. In the 1870s, William Morris’s wife Jane was another face in his paintings, who he fancied very much.

In the 1880s, in the later stages of his life, he returned back to his love of poetry, he wrote and published Poems and Ballads and Sonnets. In 1882, he died on Easter day in Birchington-on-Sea, Kent from ill health, escalated with the use of chloral(3).

Self-Portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti by Himself(20th September 1855)

A piece titled 'The Day Dream'(1880), the model is Fanny Cornforth

Title: Portrait of Elizabeth Siddal, painted 1850 to 1865

(1)Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) was founded in 1849 by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), D.G. Rossetti, John Everett Millais (1829-1896), William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Thomas Woolner, and F. G. Stephens to revitalize the arts.
Source: The Victorian Web
(2)Laudanum – an alcoholic solution containing morphine, prepared from opium and formerly used as a narcotic painkiller
(3)Chloral – a colorless, viscous liquid made by chlorinating acetaldehyde.
From Apple Dictionary, New Oxford American Dictionary,

Title: Dante Gabriel Rossetti::Biography and Image Gallery at ArtMagick
URL: http://www.artmagick.com/pictures/artist.aspx?artist=dante-gabriel-rossetti

English Poets and Painters: William Blake

William Blake (1757 – 1827)

William Blake, a poet, painter, engraver and illustrator was born in London on the November 28, 1757 to James and Catherine Blake. He has three other siblings although, they were five others earlier, two of his siblings died in their infancy. As a child, William Blake spoke of seeing God and angels on different occasions.

This early experience formed an interest in religion and influenced his style of poetry and painting. William Blake is one of the poets i admire because his poems are very simplistic, his style of writing shows the kind of era, he lived in. It is obvious that his literature was based on the King James Version of the Bible, published by 1611 which was a standard for literature for 100 of years.

“…King James Version, quickly became the standard for English-speaking Protestants. Its flowing language and prose rhythm has had a profound influence on the literature of the past 300 years.”

(Bible Gateway.com)

From his childhood, he learnt to read and write at school because his parents noticed that he was different from his other peers and decided not to force him into conventional school. He began to paint at the age of ten and then by age 14, he also writing poetry. He attended the Royal Academy to study art when he was 10, but after difficulty with paying the expenses, he left. Blake went on to apprentice as an engraver, where he drew inspiration from Gothic styles from sketching the tombs at Westminster Abbey.
He completed his apprencticeship after 7 years, then married a year after in 1782 at the age of 25. His wife Catherine Boucher was an illerate and William Blake taught her how to read and write and also taught her how to draw like an artist.

After all these years, William Blake lived a quiet life, he opened a Printshop with a friend and fellow apprenctice James Parker but it did not bring any success. At this point, Blake had also taught his brother Robert draftmanship and his wife and brother supported him with his artwork for his poetry.
His first poems or book of poems was named ‘Poetical Sketical’, it is a collection of apprentice verse, mostly imitating classical models. The poems protest against war, tyranny, and King George III’s treatment of the American colonies. Throughout his life, his poems were based on his visions and interpretations of spiritual perceptions, his attitudes as a nonconformist, his interpretations of other poetry and literature and his imaginations.

In 1787, Robert his brother fell ill and died in the winter. Blake claimed that he saw Robert’s spirit, rising towards the ceiling and he was clapping with joy. He believed that Robert’s spirit continued to visit him and showed him the printing method, which he used in Songs of Innocence and other works. Some of his pieces both poetry and artistic are:

  • 1783 – Poetical Sketches
  • 1789 – Songs of Innocence
  • 1790 to 1793 – The Marriage of Heaven and hell(prose)
  • 1791 – Engraver of the Frontpiece of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories for Children(1788)
  • 1791 – The French revolution
  • 1793 – America, a Prophecy
  • 1793 – Visions of the Daughthers of Albion
  • 1794 – Europe, a Prophecy
  • 1794 – The Book Of Urizen

His Great epics of 1804 to 1820

  • Milton – began 1804 to 1808
  • Vala /The Four Zoas – 1797
  • Jerusalem – 1804 to 1820
  • Designed illustrations from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy

    William Blake - The Creation of Eve(1808)

In the early 1800s, around 1803, William Blake thought himself Hebrew, Latin, Greek and Italian, so that he could read classical books in their original language. William Blake was a nonconformist, it was through his association with radical thinkers such as Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonescraft in the 1780s, that produced most of his piece such as America, a Prophecy and Europe, a Prophecy. As noted above, the picture below is an image of the piece he created for Mary Wolllstonecraft children’s book.

Frontpiece of Original Stories for Children by Mary Wollenstonecraft, engraved by William Blake in 1791

William Blake was not very popular in his times although he did exhibit his paintings at the Royal Academy and at his brother James’ house, he was determined not to sacrifice his vision in order to become popular. People had different opinions of his works, some praised his work, some thought his style was not normal – not meant in a positive sense. Robert Southey and William Wordsworth, both Romantic poets thought him insane. Robert added one of Blake’s poems ‘Mad Song’ to his collection of poems ‘The Doctor’ (1834-1837).  A couple of  years before his death, Blake worked on designing illustrations for Dante’s Aligheri’s Divine comedycommissioned by John Linnel, a young artist he meet in 1818. William Blake died in 1827.

Title: William Blake- Poets.org – Poetry, Poems, Bios & More

Title: King James Version (KJV Bible) – Version Information
URL: http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/King-James-Version-KJV-Bible

Image Source: The Creation of Eve
URL: http://freechristimages.org/bible_artists/William_Blake.htm

Image source: Original Stories From Real Life
URL: http://newingtongreen.org.uk/image/original-stories-real-life

Types of poetic art

Digital poetry

Digital poetry is the most modern form of poetic art. Digital poetry uses the computer to produce artistic works. Some examples of digital poetry uses videos, digital sounds, etc

Visual poetry/ concrete poetry

Visual poetry uses the visual arrangement of text, images and symbols to convey the effect of poetic works. In visual poetry, the distinction between the art and text is not clear. Concrete poetry is poetry composed of purely typographic elements.

Fluxus poetry/Intermedia

Fluxism is taken from the latin word ‘flux’ meaning to flow is believed to have originate from the experimental music in the 1950s and 1960s.

Intermedia was a concept employed in the mid-1960s to describe the merging between artistic disciplines that were popular in the 1960s such as theatre and painting, drawing and poetry. These can be described as Intermedia. Intermedia is taught independently from fine art courses in universities.


Futurism was a dramatic art movement which began in the early twenty-first century, headed by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909 with the publication of the Manifesto of futurism on the front page of Paris newspaper Le Figaro. As an art form, futurism due upon elements of Divisionism and cubism.

The name futurism was given because the art movement emphasized themes associated with concepts of future including speed, technology, youth and violence and objects such as cars, aeroplanes basically modern technology.

Futurism is believed to have influenced other art movements including Surrealism, Dada, art deco, constructivism. During these periods, other art movements were taking place in Europe, notably Russia and France. Futurist artist were fascists.

Poetry presented as Film

Poetry in Motion is a documentary film produced in 1982, that explores the lives of some North American poets and their poetry. Poetry is presented as sound, music and drama. The clip below is the poem “The Four Horsemen’s”, sound poetry by poetry group Four Horsemen.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf is originally a stage play by Ntozake Shange, about the problems that women (of color) face in life. The play has a collection of twenty poems which describes the thoughts of the main female characters. The play was recently adapted by Tyler Perry into a blockbuster movie, the storyline has been adapted to fit a modern culture but the characters are the same. What I love about both the old and new version of the plot is that it uses dialogue, the character speaking the poem is talking to herself, her colleagues and the audience too. It is a very engaging play/film with a powerful storyline.

This is one of the poetic scenes from the original play by Ntozake Shange, titled “Somebody almost walked off wid all ma stuff” Enjoy!

Poets and Painters Exhibitions

The number of public shows and exhibitions based on poetry and art shows that it is still developing and has admirers today. I researched exhibitions that showcase works on both poetry and art.

Tibor de Nacy Gallery, Painters and Poets is an annual exhibition which has been running for 60 years since after the second world war. It is based in New York and features works from John Ashberry, Joe Brainard, Fairfield Porter and more.

Les Orientales is an exhibition based in Paris, showing at the Maison de Victor Hugo. Victor Hugo published a collection of poems, Les Orientales, which paints an imaginary oriental world. The piece became a source of inspiration in the works of Romanticists Gericault, Girodet, Boulanger and Delacroix.

The “Poetry on Canvas” exhibition by Aslam Kamal opened recently(October 2011) in Islamabad, Pakistan. Aslam Kamal is a calligraphist, painter, illustrator and designer. Some of the pieces showcased in the Poetry on Canvas exhibtion will include the illustrators he painted based on poets Allama Iqbal and Faiz. Kamal said about Faiz ” Faiz is the poet, he writes poetry about beauty. I’m his rival and I paint the beauty he depicts”. This statement clearly shows the influence of poetry on an artist. Kamal first pieces on Faiz’s poetry was first debut in 1983, twenty-eight years ago. Today, some of the paintings depict Faiz in the process of thinking up poetry.

‘Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams’ an exhibition features surrealists collections from Europe. It is based on the movement which began in the 1920s and was founded by André Breton. The exhibition presents more than 180 works by 56 artists, including paintings, sculptures, ‘surrealist objects’, films, photographs, drawings and collages. The exhibition is mainly held in Paris, it explores the historical overview of the artistic movement, from the evolution of Dada experiments in painting to modern works of art.

The Lure of Painted Art exhibition took place at the Cleveland Musuem of Art, in Cleveland – America. The exhibition aims to demonstrate how Chinese literacy traditions have been echoed in Japan and Korea throughout the 1,000 years. The large exhibition has 100 works on Japanese and Korean painting, ceramics and calligraphy.

The Poetry of Drawing exhibition showcases a collection of Pre-Raphaelite drawings and watercolours. The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood was a radical group of young artists originated in Birmingham, England were a group of radical young artists led by Rossetti, Millais and Holman Hunt, who banded together in the mid 19th century and revolutionised British art. They challenged the art of their day and helped shape later movements such as Aestheticism, Symbolism and Art Nouveau. This year the exhibition organised by Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery was on tour.

The `Poetry Beyond Text: Vision, Text and Cognition’ is a symposium and exhibition project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council at the University of Dundee. It has been running since 2009, led by Professor Andrew Michael Roberts of the School of Humanities at the University of Dundee. The project has produced an exhibition of visual-poetic art works, including concrete poetry, sculptural poetic artefacts, artists’ books, poetic prints, poem-photography, text film and digital poetry.

The History of Poetry and Art

A Brief History of Poetry

Poetry as an art form existed before literacy. Some of the earliest poem were recited orally or sung as songs. The earliest poem is believed to be the Epic of Gilgamesh which originated from Iraq or Mesopotamia from the 4th Millenium BC. Poems were used as a way of remembering history, stories, genealogy and law. Poetry is closely related to musical traditions, which is mostly attributed to religious movements. The Homeric and Hesiodic epics( the earliest surviving peoms in European tradition)

Ancient thinkers sought to determine what makes poetry different from other art forms and to distinguish between good poetry and bad poetry, the strudy of poetry is called ‘poetics’ or the aesthetics of poetry. Poetry has been used differently in many cultures through time, some ancient societies in China developed Shi Jing, one of the five classics of Confucianism has ritual as well as poetic elements. Aestthetics have struggled to classify the different genres of poetry because it is very broad.

As an art form, Poetics has different genres and forms, it can be classified based on their purpose and structure. For instance, the Epic of Gilgamesh describes a story so it will be lengthy and narrative. Sonnets, rhymes and limericks are more popular forms of poetry, rhymes are more popular now because of nursery rhymes and limericks add some humour. William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 is a very popular sonnet which conveys strong meanings behind descriptive texts.

The form of poetry i am researching is poetry that has acccompanied art, it has been used in union together in the past  because painters and illustrators draw inspiration from poetry and vice versa, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. Between 1760 and 1900, there had been around 2,300 paintings based on William Shakespeare plays alone. This 2,300 are only one-fifth of the 11, 500 paintings based on subjects and scenes from literature in England only. This figures shows that the huge influence that authors and artists had on each other.

From this point, I will discuss a movement that was very heavily based on art and poetry during the mid-1800s among three main countries.

A history of art

Art and poetry as a art form have interwovened into each other for many centuries. Art movements such as symbolism, realism, Impressionism and all the art forms that preceded afterwards. Symbolism however is thought to define the movement of art and poetry. Symbolism was an art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and art, it can be traced back to the art of Gustave Moreau in the 1850s and the poetry of Charles Baudelaire in the 1860s.