What Is Concrete Poetry

Concrete poetry, also known as ‘shape poetry’, is a poetic form that uses the arrangement of words, letters, and syllables on a page to create a visual representation of the poem’s meaning. With concrete poetry, the layout of text on the page is just as important as the words themselves. As a result, concrete poetry stands out from other forms of poetry for its bold and unique aesthetic, as well as its focus on the visual representation of ideas.

Often, poems written in this form can be used to great effect to evoke strong and powerful emotions in the reader. As an example, in a concrete poem about sadness and desolation, empty white space can be used to capture the hollowness of emotion that the writer might be struggling with. Alternatively, multiple words can be arranged and repeated in ways that convey the feeling of confusion and disorientation. More than any other form of poetry, concrete poetry relies on compositional elements to communicate emotion, creating an entirely new lexicon that can be used to express complex feelings.

Part of what makes concrete poetry so special is the fact that it often gives readers and viewers the opportunity to interpret and develop their own meaning from the poem. When we look at a poem written in this form, we are not just looking at a mere combination of words, but instead we are looking at the product of creative experimentation and visual expression. As a result, concrete poetry provides us with an amazing platform for self-expression. In a way, a concrete poem is a unique representation of the poet’s inner thoughts and feelings that can be experienced and appreciated by others.

Concrete poetry is not a new form of expression, although it has only recently become more widely recognised in the world of literature. In fact, the art form has been traced back to medieval times, when writers used artistic typography to create abstract art out of letters or words. The modern use of concrete poetry can be traced back to the twentieth century, when it began to be used by writers such as E. E. Cummings and William Carlos Williams.

Today, concrete poetry is still an important part of literature, with many writers using it to create powerful and visually stimulating works. For example, M. NourbeSe Philip’s ‘Zong!’ (2008) uses concrete poetry to explore the history of the transatlantic slave trade. The piece evokes feelings of pain, loss, and injustice through the way the words and letters are arranged on the page. By using concrete poetry, Philip is able to tell a powerful and emotive story, one that would otherwise have been difficult to express in a purely verbal form.

In conclusion, concrete poetry provides an innovative and powerful way to express complex ideas and emotions. By manipulating the arrangement of words, letters, and syllables on a page, a unique visual language can be created that allows readers to experience poetry in a completely new way. Whether it’s used to tell a powerful story or evoke powerful emotions, concrete poetry provides an exciting and engaging way to explore the written word.

History of Concrete Poetry

The use of concrete poetry in literature has been traced back to as early as the 13th century. This form of expression was prevalent in medieval manuscripts, with various typographical features (such as the use of capitals, abbreviations, and ligatures) used to divinate the structure of the page. It was not until the mid-20th century, however, that poets began to truly explore the power of concrete poetry as a medium for self-expression.

The first recognised example of concrete poetry was ‘Parole in Libertà’ (1965) by the Italian writer Eugenio Montale. This is a short work which combines words and images to convey a powerful message. Since then, other notable examples of this form of expression include the works of E. E. Cummings, M. NourbeSe Philip, and William Carlos Williams. Today, authors and poets around the world continue to explore the possibilities of concrete poetry, creating stunning visual and literary works that capture the human experience.

It is clear that concrete poetry has come a long way since its inception. With its flexible and creative approach to storytelling, it is sure to remain an important part of literature for years to come.

Aesthetics of Concrete Poetry

The aesthetics of concrete poetry is based on the notion that the visual representation is as important as the words themselves. By arranging words, letters, and syllables in a unique and creative way, the composition of a concrete poem can draw attention to specific ideas and emotions, thus giving readers a new way of engaging with the work.

As mentioned earlier, the use of empty space can be particularly effective when creating a concrete poem. This method of visual expression gives the poem a sense of emptiness, creating an aching and melancholic atmosphere. Similarly, certain words and phrases can be repeated and rearrange in ways that evoke feelings of confusion or anxiety.

In addition to the use of text, many poets explore the use of color and different fonts in their concrete poems, allowing them to further explore expressiveness. By utilizing different font styles and colors, a poet can create an interesting visual landscape that conveys the subtle nuances of emotions.

It is clear that concrete poetry provides authors and poets with new and exciting ways of conveying creative ideas and feelings. By exploring the possibilities of visual expression, poets can create unique works of art that capture their artistic vision in a unique and powerful way.

Impact of Concrete Poetry

The influence of concrete poetry has been felt in many aspects of contemporary culture, from the music industry to advertising. In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of shape or visual poetry in marketing campaigns, as businesses try to capture their audience’s attention with bold and often daring visuals.

The influence of concrete poetry can also be seen in the music industry, with many hip-hop and rap artists using this form of expression to convey powerful messages. For instance, rapper Kendrick Lamar has used concrete poetry in his lyrics to explore difficult themes such as poverty, racism, and police brutality. In this way, concrete poetry is providing rappers and musicians with a new way of conveying their thoughts and feelings.

In addition, concrete poetry has been used in the classroom as a way to get students interested in the written word. By allowing them to interact with and interpret a poem in a different way, students can gain new insights into the world of literature. Furthermore, concrete poetry can be used to explore complex topics, giving students the opportunity to think critically and express their opinions in an innovative way.

Overall, it is clear that concrete poetry has had a profound impact on popular culture. By providing a platform for self-expression and creative experimentation, concrete poetry has created a unique and powerful way to engage with literature and explore complex issues and emotions.

Concrete Poetry in Contemporary Culture

Today, concrete poetry is becoming increasingly popular in contemporary culture, as writers, musicians, and artists explore its creative possibilities. Social media sites such as Instagram, for instance, account for hundreds of examples of concrete poetry, with many users uploading content and experimenting with visual expression.

Additionally, the literary world has begun to embrace concrete poetry, with various initiatives and awards aimed at promoting the form. For example, the Concrete Poetry Prize, held in the UK each year, celebrates the best works of ongoing series of concrete poems.

Furthermore, the art has been explored within different genres of literature, with authors such as Amit Chaudhuri exploring the aesthetics of concrete poetry in works such as ‘Real Time’ (2013). As a whole, works like these provide us with a unique insight into the power of concrete poetry and its potential to engage readers and evoke powerful emotion.

In conclusion, concrete poetry has emerged as a powerful and dynamic form of expression in contemporary culture. By examining this medium, we can gain an understanding of its creative possibilities, while also appreciating the power of visual language in expressing complex ideas and feelings.


Knud Romer, the celebrated scholar of Concrete Poetry, put it best when he said, “Concrete Poetry is like a word-picture. Just as a painting creates an image, Concrete Poetry creates a pattern from words and letters which blend to form a visual expression”. Indeed, it is this blend of words and visual expression that makes concrete poetry so special. By manipulating the arrangement of words, letters, and syllables on the page, we can create a unique and powerful way to explore ideas and emotions.

Concrete poetry has been used throughout history to capture and express powerful ideas, and its influence can now be seen in many aspects of popular culture today. As more and more writers, musicians, and artists experiment with this form of expression, the power of concrete poetry is sure to remain relevant and exciting for years to come.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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