November 25, 2022

Author John Green, a nonprofit that tries to reach people on YouTube with poetry – Reading Eagle


CHICAGO – Words on the page are revealed first with a title and then one sentence at a time.


“Me too, I don’t like it:

“There are things that are important beyond this whole violin.”

This is how “Poetry,” an early 20th century poem by Marianne Moore about this venerable art form, is presented via a whole new art form, the YouTube video.

The voice that reads these words, the hands holding the dented copy of the “Norton Anthology of Poetry” that contains them, belong to John Green, the bestselling author of “The Fault in Our Stars” and other works of the cannon for young adults. .

In another video from the same new series, you can see – but mostly hear – actress Shailene Woodley read Kahlil Gibran’s “On Love,” a poem that she says “really showed me the truth about what love could be “.

The idea of ​​bringing together the old written format that so many people learn to hate in school and the modern video that so many people use to turn away from, say, schoolwork arose from Green and his wife, the curator. Sarah Urist Green art.

“My wife Sarah and I both love poetry,” Green said. “We both subscribe to the idea that poetry doesn’t have enough readers. We were just home one night talking about how amazing it would be if there was a cool YouTube show about poetry. “

Our Poetics

They’ve partnered up with the Poetry Foundation of Chicago and the result of that collaboration is the ambitious Bear Poetica, a YouTube channel and series that will feature a poet, actor, or other person reading a poem they love three times a year. week for next year.

There was a launch event recently in the foundation building in Chicago with Green and poets Paige Lewis, who is the series curator, and Kaveh Akbar, as well as screenings and discussions on some of the videos.

But the essence of the series is in the videos. These are beautifully constructed little moments that give you an insight into the reader and explain why work is important to that reader.

Green, for example, said reading the poem “Poetry” in high school – in that same Norton anthology that he brought in front of the camera – had a big influence.

“There’s a line in it on ‘imaginary gardens with real toads’, and to me that’s what writing fiction is,” he said.

But then the emphasis shifts entirely to the poem. You see the book, the hands, the work on its page inside the book. Some clever magic after the shoot erases all but one sentence at a time, and as it is read the poem reveals itself, gaining momentum like a ball rolling down the descent.

And then the hands close the book.

“We want to focus on the text,” Green said. “We want the videos to be as clean and beautiful as possible and to be just the voice and the text.”

Meaningful presentation

From a poet’s perspective, this presentation matters, Lewis said.

“I think a lot of YouTube poetry videos online currently focus more on the player themselves and their performance of the poem,” she said. “And I know poets spend a lot of time deciding how their poem will appear on the page – like an arrangement of stanzas or the end of the line or the use of white space. It’s all very intentional.

“The viewer can follow very closely and also experience this text placement as the poet originally intended.”

People who don’t use YouTube, or who don’t have school-aged children, might not realize how natural it was for Greens to think about making a new video show on the web. We’ll let John Green take care of the explanation, which he does as well in his very popular “Crash Course” video series.

“To borrow a line from (Walt) Whitman, YouTube is big and has multitudes,” he said. “I think a lot of people just close their eyes and think of YouTube and see, you know, young bloggers and video players screaming into microphones.

“It’s definitely a big part of YouTube. But there’s also a really vibrant world of educational video on YouTube, which is the world we’re from. Sarah has done a show (‘The Art Assignment’) with PBS digital on contemporary art for the past five years. And my brother Hank and I have been making educational videos for over a decade. So to us, it doesn’t seem counterintuitive that there is a poetry show on YouTube.

Reached out to Lewis

After getting their inspiration from poetry video, the Greens quickly reached out to Lewis and their new husband Akbar, whom they knew a bit from the art circles of the Indianapolis area, where they all live.

In fact, Akbar was Lewis’ newest husband.

“When they first emailed me about this project they wanted to collaborate on, I was on my honeymoon in Paris,” recalls Lewis. “I remember delaying our day at the Louvre because I was so excited to write down lists of potential readers for this series.”

The company of the Green Complexly brothers is now quite a large company (it lists 37 people under “Our Staff”). It can boast of having hundreds of millions of views on YouTube. So when the Greens approached the Poetry Foundation to partner with this new idea, it wasn’t hard to get excited, said Sarah Whitcher, the foundation’s director of marketing and media.

“Our goal is to present people with the best poetry – and as many people as possible,” Whitcher said. “Digital has been a more difficult space to understand how to engage people more, and especially video has been a challenge in this way.

“And I think Paige and John and the team discovered white space in the poetry video. You will see a lot of heavily animated videos or talking head videos. And it really brings something new and fresh. It’s really elegant and intimate at the same time.

Collaboration to continue

The collaboration will continue until the first year. Other readers include Ashley C. Ford, Jacqueline Woodson, and Ilya Kaminsky. Chicagoans who have recorded poems in the past include Jose Olivarez, Erika L Sanchez, Aviya Kushner, and Faisal Mohyuddin.

But there is potential to continue if the series is well received, say those involved. And the material is certainly not lacking.

“You can post five video poems a day and never run out of amazing poems to share,” said John Green.

And there is no shortage of potential listeners.

“There are so many people who love poetry, but don’t know that they love poetry because they have been told that poetry is one thing or another or because they have felt intimidated in a English lessons in high school. , “he said.” But my experience at least is that when you meet contemporary poetry in all its diversity, you find that there is a lot going for you. And so we really want to reach people who love poetry, but do not know her yet.

“I think sometimes the very word ‘poetry’ scares people,” Lewis said. “There is this surrealist poet André Breton who called poetry ‘a room of wonder.’ And I love the idea that this collaboration we’re having with the Poetry Foundation is a way to unlock this room and reveal these wonders one poem at a time for people who are a little afraid of what poetry could mean.