Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

Visual Broadsides – Maggie Zurawski’s “Companion Animal”

I usually just assign my students to convey an understanding of craft visually accompanied by word–but I seldom do this assignment myself.  This time I joined my students in an “ekphrastic” exercise in reverse–visual art in response to poetry.  “Ekphrastic” refers to a form of poetry where the poet responds to another work of art, usually visual, rendering its symbolism and impact through words.   I require students to also add a short statement about the choices they made to capture the tone, craft, and impact of the poem they are considering and to consider ways the visual medium can render more than words can say.  “Broadsides” are artfully rendered letter press printings of a poem.  So I refer to these class works as “visual broadsides”–an idea stolen/borrowed/gifted from the great poet/teacher Dorianne Laux.  Read Zurawski’s book, view our interpretations, make your own!  Having now experienced this assignment first hand, I can attest that it deepened my relationship to the poem, to the book as a whole, and to the power of visual meaning-making.  I believe this would be a super exercise in K-12 classrooms as well.

Chelsea Ward’s youtube video visual broadside: https://youtu.be/t869hPwPON8

book: http://www.litmuspress.org/books/companion-animal/

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see previous examples from former students here: https://teachersactup.com/2011/11/04/visual-broadsides-of-anne-waldmans-poems/


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