Watch “The Poetry of Perception”: Harvard Animates Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson & William Carlos Williams

Two years ago, a series of ani­mat­ed sci­ence videos began to pop up on a Vimeo account called Har­vardX Neu­ro­science. As its name sug­gests, it’s com­ing out of Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty, and, with the help of ani­ma­tors, they orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed a series of sci­en­tif­ic shorts pitched between the lay­man and the seri­ous sci­en­tist. In the last month, how­ev­er, they’ve stepped fur­ther into the arts realm with a mini-series of ani­ma­tions (five and count­ing as of this writ­ing) that look to poet­ry to explain what sci­ence ren­ders dry and aca­d­e­m­ic.

The new video series fea­tures “rep­re­sen­ta­tions of per­cep­tion and sen­sa­tion” as real­ized through the poems of Walt Whit­man, America’s great tran­scen­den­tal­ist poet, Emi­ly Dick­in­son, and William Car­los Williams (whose own read­ing is used as the audio for a video). Open­ing all the sens­es to the won­ders of the world is “the ori­gin of all poems” accord­ing to Whit­man, and this cura­tion focus­es on smell, taste, sight, touch, and sound to prove his point.

The read­ers you hear in this videos, col­lec­tive­ly enti­tled Poet­ry of Per­cep­tion, include poet/artist Peter Bleg­vad, Anna Mar­tine, Harvard’s own Sarah Jes­sop, and artist/animator Nak Yong Choi. And the ani­ma­tions are brought to you by Sophie Koko Gate, Han­nah Jacobs, Lily Fang, Isaac Hol­land, Bri­an Smee, all who bring a tac­tile, muta­ble qual­i­ty to these short poems.

There will be anoth­er three videos in the series, so please book­mark the Vimeo account.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Walt Whitman’s Poem “A Noise­less Patient Spi­der” Brought to Life in Three Ani­ma­tions

William Car­los Williams Reads His Poet­ry (1954)

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe Reads Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1952)

The Sec­ond Known Pho­to of Emi­ly Dick­in­son Emerges

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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  • Eleni Cay says:

    I like the idea behind this project but am very dis­ap­point­ed to see how US-cen­tric the ani­ma­tions are (Amer­i­can flags,campfire marsh­mal­lows etc etc). Poet­ry-and I thought this project- speak about uni­ver­sal val­ues, it’s very sad to see Har­vard sup­ports such a reduc­tion­ist ver­sion.

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