Menu - 1 - 2 - Thesis - Podcast - Art Lessons - Research - Timeline - Transcript

Hunter College
School of Education
The Arts: an Interdisciplinary Experience


                                                                   Prof John Toth




Text Design: Image as reflection on a museum visit. 


Artwork Under Study:

William Burroughs, Cut-ups, Poetry

John Toth, X-Words.

Guillaume Apollinaire, Calligrames. (image at right)

Rossiter and Mignot, Washington & Lafayette at Mount Vernon

Line of Inquiry:

How does Apollinaire reconfigure (transform) the structure of word design to express something beyond the original meaning of language?


Pedagogical Inquiry:

How can the shape of words affect meaning?

How does language encourage and/or limit the reflection process?

How do multiple intelligences address the limits of language?


Objective:  Explore ways in which language can be used to transform or “break out of the box” of its conventional way of transmitting meaning.


Vocabulary: Make a list of words that make up the language of the art form.

  • Poetry, word shape association, concrete (in terms of language),
  • Technology words: font size, pixels, italic, Wordart,


Activity:  CONCRETE POEM   

The following suggestions should be helpful in the creation of the concrete poem:


            Begin by listing words and phrases that spontaneously come to mind.  Without censoring anything, write down any words or sentence fragments that may come out of your experience during the visual art workshop and museum visit. Refer to your experience during the workshop and museum visit. You should connect to the works of art you observed.   The next list should be more thoughtful.  Make another list based on contextual information (historical, cultural, and previous knowledge of the art objects, exhibitions and so forth).    Arrange text to create a one paragraph, free verse poem.


            Take your poem and design the text into a visual reflection (equivalent / composition) that compliments and enhances the meaning of the poem. You may do the text by hand using any materials and colors you wish. You may use a computer. Pick a font  and size that visually compliments the meaning of the poem. You can manipulate the words and sentences on the computer. If this is too difficult, you may cut and paste. Your concrete poem should be 81/2 by 11. If you glue text/images down, everything must be flat.   When we look at the final work. Make sure that the text / image is well balanced. The visual should not dominate. Do not use clip art or add any lines and pictures other than images you make by composing the  text. The reader should know where you want them to start reading the poem.

pencils, paper, markers.
computers running MS Word, digital camera, printer, paper

Look on the Blackboard in Course Documents for examples of Concrete Poems. The content of  these examples are different from our assignment.

In a Concrete Poem, form follows function. The poem's visual form reveals its content and is integral to it. These are the features of such a poem:

  • If you remove the form of the poem, you weaken the poem.
  • In some (though not all) Concrete Poems, the form contains so much significant meaning of the poem that, if you remove the form of the poem, you destroy the poem.
  • The arrangement of letters and words creates an image that offers the meaning visually.
  • The white space of the page can be a significant part of the poem.
  • Such poems can include a combination of lexical and pictorial elements.
  • The physical arrangement in a Concrete Poem can provide a cohesion that the actual words lack. This allows a concrete poem to ignore standard syntax, and logical sequencing.
  • While such poetry is predominantly experienced as visual poetry, some concrete poetry is sound poetry. In general, concrete poetry attempts to give its audience the more immediate experience of art that is achieved by viewers of art or listeners of music.

Contextual Information

Examples of student Concrete poems:










Incorporates some of the following Elements / Principals/ Expressive Elements to integrate the text into a visual composition: balance, harmony, variety, emphasis, rhythm/ movement/ repetition, gradation, proportion, unity, emotions, concepts, metaphors, etc.


Organization and arrangement / design of text communicates no visual reflection of gallery experience.

Organization and arrangement / design of text communicates a reflection of gallery experience.

Organization and arrangement / design of text communicates an enhanced reflection of gallery experience.

Creftsmanship / Technique:

Manner and skill with which the TC manipulates (hand-made or computer-made) the text---font/size/color---to visually achieve the chosen effect.

Finished concrete poem shows little or no skills in manipulation of the text and technique used to visually achieve the chosen effect.


Finished concrete poem shows skills in manipulation of the text and technique used to visually achieve the chosen effect.

Finished concrete poem shows great skills in manipulation of the text and technique used to visually achieve the chosen effect.

Creativity / Elaboration/


Amplification, developments of theme in unique manner of the gallery visit.

Lack of originality. Theme is weak, stereotypical, copied or trace.

Average degree of originality. Theme is present with some elaboration.

Superior degree of originality throughout; very unique solution; theme elaborated upon to a high degree.










Arts Standards: List the arts standards that are being addressed in your lesson.

  • The Arts Standards for New York.htm (cut and paste)
  • Standard 1: Elementary
  • develop their own ideas and images through the exploration and creation of art works based on themes, symbols, and events” from