The Multimodal Poem Assignment

I’ve done a multimodal poetry assignment successfully for Intro to Poetry for quite some time now, and once students see what can be done with multiple modalities in poetry, some good things can happen. Sure, there is less reliance on text, but the goal is to still have the same quality with the text, but with other media enhancing its effect. I have a sample poem that I did to show what could be done, but in this post I want to highlight student work. Here is one from the first year I assigned it. This student is now an MFA student in poetry and has been published in several national literary journals:

Clearly, this is a sentimental subject and the resulting video is meant to be sent to family and friends. Sometimes that is what’s called for. Here is another from the past. This one does not have sound and the text taken on its own is very prosy, but the use of images and its timing is fairly good:

Finding music that is copyright-friendly can be a problem. This poem’s solution was to use the generic music available in GarageBand:

Here’s another one that is fairly imagistic and centered on nature:

This poem centers on a mission trip and really uses the music well and also incorporates a video clip very well:

I have one more multimodal poem to share, and I think this is one of the most successful ones. It uses text very well and balances the different media in a way that makes all of them necessary. I especially like the chunk of text at the end and the whiteout effect that reveals the last line. It should be no surprise that this student is now a graduate in Creative Writing who will begin an MFA program in the fall. In fiction, but she still keeps poetry in the mix. You never know.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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