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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