Action Poetry

Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate and one of America's best-selling poets, is not big on technology. As far as I know from talking with him, he's not big on email or computers. But, he recognizes the power of the web in promoting poetry. His Poetry 180 project while he was Laureate is available online and in book form (including a sequel).

And now there are 11 short animated films set to an audio track of Billy reading his poems. There's not much information online about them. They are produced by JWT-NY. I didn't find any real information on whether this was a grant project, competition or commercial venture.

You can watch most of them at YouTube if you do a search, and I'm including a few embedded one here, but I prefer the video quality on the actual Billy Collins Action Poetry site if you are using them with a class.

I think these would be great to use in the literature classroom. Students should like the animations, but there is real value to talking about what we see when we hear a poem.

I know more and more classes are getting into doing short films too. Straight video is easiest to produce and edit but with tools like Flash, animation is becoming more of a possibility.

Digital storytelling (which merits several posts of its own) is really worthwhile and there are free programs that allow you to do that.

Three that I like are "Forgetfulness" and "Budapest" with animation by Julian Grey/Head Gear, and "Now and Then" animated by Eun-ha Paek of Milky Elephant. I'll embed one sample here. If you can't see the embedded Flash videos, you're missing the browser plug-in OR it is being blocked at your location - like it is for me at my high school location... Aaaargh!

(This post originally appeared in a earlier form on my Poets Online blog.)


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