Poem films and film poems

by Tom Barrance

Poems can make great inspirations for films. Here are a few examples of different approaches to making poem films. They show how you can use music and images to broaden out the meaning of a poem; linking¬†performance, dance, sound and editing; and using punchy, in-your-face typography. There’s also a wordless ‘film poem’ which uses images to explore a mood.

Speech and music

Willem Martinot’s film of a Charles Bukowski poem shows that you don’t have to be too literal – the images should expand or build on the words rather than exactly matching them.

Patrick Biesemans has filmed another Bukowski poem. This time it’s a narrative poem, so it makes sense to show the story described in the words.

Music really enhances both of these films.

Speech and performance with music

Jade Anouka and Michael Dickes ‘Disappointment’ was filmed with one camera and a swinging lightbulb in an theatre in New York.

Dance, sound and speech

Rolling Frames from AniCo and filmmakers Garrett and Garrett links dance performance, film and poetry. Instead of music it uses diegetic (‘natural’) sound, with some clever match editing between different pairs of dancers in different locations.


Beth Fulton’s Television is a Drug uses a powerful performance of Todd Alcott’s poem, with the text of the poem synched exactly to the soundtrack. (Warning – flashing images).

Film poem without words

You can also make film poems which are just made up of images and sounds without words.

Sub City New York, by Redglass Pictures, shows “that moment in New York when you emerge from the subway and find yourself in a new and sometimes unexpected world”.