The Poetry Movement: 21st Century Poetry

A still from 'Death & Co.', animated by David Lobser.

After Nyne’s Laura reports on The Poetry Movement.

The Josephine Hart Poetry Foundation has made it their mission to get more people excited about poetry. During her lifetime, novelist and poetry anthologist Josephine Hart became a great champion of the poetic medium. In her own words, ‘Poetry, once it entered my mind, surfaced at times of need and became a lifeline.’

Her belief that great poetry deserves great readers led to the Josephine Hart Poetry Hours, which has seen Bob Geldof, Ralph Fiennes and Eddie Redmayne, amongst other prominent performers, narrate some of Hart’s favourite poems. The foundation’s The Poetry App has also proved immensely popular, with over 260,000 downloads so far. (We recently met the director of the Poetry App, Eleanor Carter. You can read our interview with her here.)

The next project for the Josephine Hart Foundation is The Poetry Movement – a series of animated interpretations of the poetry featured in the app. The films are produced by Creative Director John-Paul Pryor and The Poetry App Director Eleanor Carter, directed by Icecream, David Lobser & Onur Senturk of Troublemakers TV and overseen by Lord Saatchi. After Nyne were among the select group of viewers to an advance screening of the first three films, visualisations of T.S.Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, Sylvia Plath’s ‘Death & Co.’ and Philip Larkin’s ‘High Windows.’

A still from ‘The Waste Land’, animated by Icecream.

As any other keen reader will tell you, these aren’t easy poems or poets. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ is a fragmentary work, punctured with quotations in foreign languages and allusions to obscure sources. (Read it here). It’s impossible to simplify with neat interpretations, nor would you want to. The bleak post-war reality that Eliot presents in ‘The Waste Land’ is reflected in film’s harsh-edged, monochromatic landscape. The line ‘I had not thought death had undone so many’ is particularly emphasised: anonymous, geometric humanoids disintegrate as war, like a virus, consumes the Earth.

A still from 'Death & Co.', animated by David Lobser.
A still from ‘Death & Co.’, animated by David Lobser.

Plath’s ‘Death & Co.’, is taken from her final collection, ‘Ariel,’ completed shortly before her suicide. (Read it here) The film highlights Plath’s dark imagery – hatching maggots, nightmarish avian figures and a ripple of light and energy, that concludes the animation, reminiscent of a nuclear bomb’s mushroom cloud.

A still from 'High Windows', animated by Onur Senturk.
A still from ‘High Windows’, animated by Onur Senturk.

The Poetry Movement drew attention to the wide scope of focal points in Larkin’s ‘High Windows’. (Read it here). The camera pans over diverse range of static figures: playing children, couples having sex, a developing foetus and a Pope, to finish with panes of glass, suspended in the stars. The Poetry Movement’s interpretation of ‘High Windows’ is now available to view at

The films aren’t story boards or a Sparknotes guide to the poems’ narratives and they don’t pretend to be. Instead, The Poetry Movement celebrates what really makes poetry: interacting layers of sound, image and verse. Reading poetry is a personal and subjective experience and the individuality of the animators’ interpretations shines through. These films don’t quite match my readings of the poems but their content is at the same time recognisable. It’s like taking a peak into someone else’s imagination.

The Poetry Movement’s aim is to express classic poetry with today’s charged visual lexicon. Creative Director John-Paul comments, “The idea was to take this classic poetry and set it very much in a 21st-century context. We wanted to produce animated films that were genuinely challenging and representative of our extreme age.” The films would fit well into the modern classroom and the hope is that these animations will act as a springboard for discussion and appreciation.

The Poetry Movement plans to develop a new animation every month, featuring all poets in The Poetry App. The next poems on the horizon will come from the collections of Emily Dickinson and WH Auden.