Chris Lovie-Tyler

Attempts at poetry

Just words

I like beautiful images and design as much as the next person. I’m also aware that people expect them (along with bullets and sub-heads and one-sentence paragraphs) on the web these days. But I wonder whether our writing suffers for it. We don’t work hard enough to make it engaging, to paint pictures with it, to give it legs to stand on its own. We rely on visual props and accommodate people’s distraction.

Which is why I’ve chosen to go the other direction and use a basic, almost entirely text-based theme.

I’ll admit, it feels uncomfortably spare, but, being an Anders Norén theme, it still has great typography and responsiveness, which are my non-negotiables.

I want this site to stand or fall on my words. That’s pretty risky, I know—especially since I’ve just started writing poetry. But I can’t see a better way to improve, and fast, than by stripping away any visual props. And, in fact, poetry, must stand or fall on words. That’s all it has. It must be able to create a world, a feeling, a moment, without the aid of anything visual (apart from the way it’s formatted, of course). It must provide its own searing images.

I know I’m going to have to work hard to do that, to provide words that make it worth you staring at black text on a white background. But, really, should it be any other way?


I read this last week and have kept thinking about it since then.

I agree with the idea that good writing should stand on its own without needing images to prop it up. It is also true that this is difficult to achieve but well worth striving for anyway, especially with poetry for the reasons you point out.

This then got me thinking about my own site, where I tend to use images in every article. Partly this is simply because I like having them and have collected a big library of images over the years. But it is also partly done without much thought, causing me to wonder if my own writing might be better if it was intended to stand alone without images as props?

A good way for me to be thinking, thanks for the nudge!

(For what it’s worth, this site looks and works great on an iPhone 5)

Chris Lovie-Tyler says:

Thanks for your comment, Mike!

To be clear, I don’t think images are always props. A great piece of writing can be enhanced by a well-chosen image. But I think it’s the default these days, a formula, and people don’t trust their own words—or maybe words in general—to do the job. (Admittedly, it is an uphill battle now that our culture is so visually stimulated and distracted.)

The other issue, particularly with poetry, is, an image can strongly influence the way a poem is read or perceived (a lot like a music video can with a song). Some people manage to match images and poetry in such a way that they enhance each other, but I think the words have to be able to stand on their own before you ever consider doing that.

It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve, I guess. The average blogger isn’t trying to write literature; they’re just trying to connect with people in an (often very) informal way. And maybe images add to that. But I’m interested in seeing what words can do on their own. They’ve been powerful in the past, and I think they can be again. Whether they can in my hands is another story, but I’m willing to give it a try!

Thanks for the heads up on how the site looks on your iPhone, by the way. It looks pretty good on my Android too.

Leave a Reply