Pop Vulture

Poetry in Motion, Thanks to YouTube

Billy Collins's poem
Billy Collins's poem "Now and Then" in animated form. (Youtube)
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

April is National Poetry Month, and thanks to YouTube it has never been easier to celebrate. Sure, you could crack open a dusty old Robert Frost anthology and savor the rhythm of the verses inside your head, but most poems are simply more powerful heard aloud. Check out Alicia Keys performing her powder keg of a poem, "P.O.W.," or Nikki Jean's emotionally charged requiem for a lost friend, "Black."

If you like your poetry without so much slam, though, worry not: A few simple searches will take you to whatever breed of poetry you're looking for. (For links to the videos described below, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/popvulture.)

Odes: YouTubers have rhymed, with varying degrees of sincerity -- and skill -- about their love for Nintendo games (a topic apparently best addressed while wearing a unicorn mask and swinging a giant sword), marijuana (not that you'd even need to hear the words to guess this poet's take on the matter) and even themselves (as when a woman named Yasmin asks the philosophical question, "Family, fans, haters, Yasmin: Which one are you; which one is me?").

Haiku: Traditionally, these brief non-rhyming poems are about nature, but on YouTube, you're just as likely to find "Bitter Ex-Girlfriend Haiku." And since we're throwing the typical serenity of ancient Japanese haiku down the inkwell, why not check out the bizarre sub-genre of zombie haiku.

Illustrated poetry: More than simply reading a favorite poem, some folks have chosen the perfect artwork to accompany their words. Excellent animations breathe life into the comically thought-provoking verses of former poet laureate Billy Collins, such as "Now and Then" and "The Dead."

Weird old man poetry: Ever wonder what your eccentric uncle is doing with that webcam he bought? You might soon see him online in a video like the ones produced by these guys: Badboypoet, a wannabe Dennis Hopper who recites a rhyming Sept. 11 conspiracy theory while wearing tie-dye and sunglasses in front of classic rock posters; and the Demon Poet, a cuddly occultist who riffs about the wily ways of Lucifer while lounging on his couch in front of pentagrams and a wizard figurine. Just what your high school English teacher would have wanted.

-- Christopher Healy


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