Concrete poetry describes a poem that is as much a piece of visual art made with words as it is a work of poetry.

History of Concrete Poetry

European artists Max Bill and Öyving Fahlström originated the term concrete poetry in the early 1950s. During this period, concrete poems were intended to be abstract and without allusion to a recognizable shape, like the E.E. Cummings’ poem “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r,” which uses spacing and punctuation to create a distinct form on the page, but doesn’t evoke any associations to an identifiable object.

The movement spread, reaching a height of popularity in the 1960s, and became less abstract. Poets began to adopt concrete poetry as a specific poetic form that used words, often the repetition of the same word, to depict a recognizable object, shape, or pattern. Contemporary concrete poetry has evolved to include photography, film, and even soundscapes. 

Examples of Concrete Poetry

Reinhard Döhl’s poem “Apfel” was written in the shape of an apple and made up entirely of the word "apple" and one instance of the word “worm.” Other examples include “Gone with the Swallows” by Ameen Rihani, “Social Distancing” by Juan Felipe Herrera, “Red Delicious” by Jerome Ellison Murphy and “Body Encounters Barrier, or Stairs (Not a Metaphor)” by Tara Hardy.