Concrete or shape poetry is poetry in which the typographical arrangement of words is as important in conveying the intended effect as the conventional elements of the poem, such as meaning of words, rhythm, rhyme and so on. – wikipedia
I tend to be attracted to poetry at an aural level, so concrete poetry isn’t generally my thing but I like the idea of it. Before looking it up for this post, I hadn’t realized that the term ‘concrete poetry’ was so recent (the 1950s) or that it had ever been held up as an avant-garde mode. I tend to think of it as old (because George Herbert’s “Easter Wings” is so anthologized) and as being childish (because it’s a form taught to children a lot). The theory, for the Niogandres group, was that concrete poetry foregrounded the materiality and specificity of the words, rather than allowing words to disappear behind the ideas they convey. I must admit, I’m not really sure how this works – I guess by dislodging the word from the line makes more strange, more visible?
It’s interesting, too, that the Niogandres group thought poetry needed shaking up into a visual form to achieve this effect. The Russian Formalists claimed, some thirty years earlier, that poetry – all and any poetry – worked to estrange language, to make it anew from the dead metaphors of prose. My cursory research doesn’t indicate whether or not the Niogandres poets were responding to the Russian Formalists, but I’d like to think so.
In writing this – constructing it? – I somewhat returned to chance operation. I used a word cloud generator with customizable shapes and plugged in a short piece I wrote apropos of the recent and very sudden burst of new growth we’ve had here.