Visualizing Poetry at the Center for Book Arts

Courtesy of the Center for Book Arts

"Poetry" from Five Oceans in a Teaspoon, Warren Lehrer in collaboration with Dennis J. Bernstein.

Last week, the Center for Book Arts (CBA) in New York City debuted an exhibition that truly takes poetry off the page. Artist Warren Lehrer is well known for playing with forms, combining book art with contemporary art in ways few have imagined. Warren Lehrer: Books, Animation, Performance, Collaboration, on view through March 28, aims to showcase that ambition through books, typography, animation, and performance—and by animation, he means taking the visualization of literature to a whole new level. Check out the animation of a poem by Dennis J. Bernstein, visualized by Warren Lehrer for their book and multimedia project Five Oceans in a Teaspoon (Paper Crown Press, 2019), with music composed and performed by Andrew Griffin and animation assistance from Brandon Campbell:


"Knitting Club"— animated poem from “Five Oceans in a Teaspoon” from EarSay Inc on Vimeo.

According to the CBA, this is called “graphic scoring,” an attempt by the artist/writer to “capture the shape of thought and reunite the oral and pictorial traditions of storytelling with the printed page.”

Courtesy of the Center for Book Arts

Like Lehrer’s previous work, it is quite compelling. Nick Basbanes wrote about Lehrer in our spring 2014 issue, after Lehrer’s novel, A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley, was published and the two met at the Miami Book Fair. Nick called the book “bold” and “audacious,” and proclaimed that we all ought to be interested in Lehrer’s work, particularly “those among us who are concerned about what the future holds for books as material objects.”

With his animations, Lehrer is still proving his boldness, making words loop, twist, and stretch both on the page and the screen.