Have you noticed how frequently poetry and photography appear together on the web. Poetry creates imagery. Juxtaposition of a photo can add dimensions to that image, much as words can add dimensionality to a photo. I remember my fourth-grade teacher stressing the importance of dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s and punctuation as the key to successful writing. Focusing on mechanics, she didn’t mention the importance of stimulating the reader’s mind. Mixing media offers more possibilities and reaches more people. Some will be pulled in by the picture and stay to read the poem.
Line placement matters when combining the two mediums. In photography, if your visual line begins at the center of your picture every time, it screams amateur. In poetry, if every style was identical it would also scream amateur and boring. I’ve discovered photographs have stronger composition if my visual leading line is clear. This is important in poetry too!
“Making use of lines in photography is a photographic composition technique used by many professional photographers, and for good reason. Lines – also referred as “Leading Lines” – can be used to lead the eye to the point of interest and prevent the eye from wandering. Lines put emphasis on distance or illustrate a relationship to the foreground and background elements. Keep in mind that using lines incorrectly can have the opposite effect and lead the eye away from the point of interest.”[i] Another key thing in a photograph is the rule of thirds because you want to provide visual balance.
“Vertical lines can suggest dominance, power, and growth. Some excellent examples include tall structural designs and trees. Horizontal lines can suggest peace, calmness and a sense of restfulness. Some prime examples include fallen trees, the ocean, beaches, and horizons. Diagonal lines can suggest action, stimulation, and depth. The use of diagonal lines can help draw the eye through a photo. “
Poetry makes use of lines in a similar fashion with content placement. “A line is a unit of language into which a poem or play divided operates on principles distinct from and not necessarily coincident with grammatical structures, such as the sentence or single clauses in sentences.” A line break is a poetic device used at the end of a line and the beginning of the next line in a poem. If employed without traditional punctuation it can be described as a point a line is divided into two halves at the end of a line.[ii] These lines direct the reader the same as a photographer does in a photograph.
Poetry lures the viewer with imagery suggesting a peaceful or calm setting or strikes with inflammatory insight. Your word choices and the line flow make or break a work. The reader needs time to what is written. Like pictures, some poems seize the reader with the feel of a tidal wave. Poems and pictures have details and nuances that require time to sense, absorb and understand.
Tying both media creates a poet or a photographer’s unique signature.