Expanded Screenwriting as Poem Form

Expanded Screenwriting as Poem Form

Experiment with the possibilities of screenwriting and scripts as a form for your poetry.

In early and silent cinema, before standard formats for screenplays had evolved, screenwriters in Europe were sometimes referred to as ‘film-poets’ and their texts as ‘screen-poems’. An example from Sergei Eisenstein’s screenplay for October (1927) reads ‘The orators of the petty-bourgeois party poured forth like balalaikas. / The telegraph machines tapped away like trilling nightingales. TO ALL… TO ALL… TO ALL… / But, like ammonia hitting the nostrils, a question sprang to the eyes: T-O A-L-L?’. In Japan, silent films were live narrated or interpreted by benshi, ‘film poets’ – who would sometimes even subvert a narrative in acts of rebellion. The benshi tradition has been reimagined by the neo-benshi movement, associated with artists and poets such as Jen Hofer, Tisa Bryant, and Roxi Power, and the Bay Area poetry scene in San Francisco, in which alternate scripts are written for existing films and performed live at screenings. 

Using examples from the modes of writing above, and through looking at strategies of reworking and ‘writing through’ both early and contemporary screenplays, we will explore the possibilities for reimagining poetry writing both with and for the screen. 


5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. 

If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected] For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image credit: Noom Peerapong 

About Emma Bolland View Profile

Emma Bolland is a writer and artist who explores the intersections and interstices between modes of writing, reading, speaking, and silencing. Forthcoming publications include Instructions from Light (JOAN publishing, summer 2022), a hybrid novella / long poem that turns on a translation of the impressionist film-maker Louis Delluc’s 1920 screenplay Le Silence. Previous publications include a cross-genre collection Over, in, and Under, (Dostoevsky Wannabe, 2019). They teach on the BA and MFA Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, and co-run the Art Department’s radio station, oHPo Radio. Recent art-works include an experimental audio-guide for the exhibition ImPerfekt at the MEWO KunsthalleMemmingen, Germany. 

‘It has completely changed and enhanced my life. The poetry school is wonderful, the staff and all the tutors. I wished I had joined it sooner but I have never looked back since doing so. It is brilliant. It has improved my writing a thousandfold. I feel I would have just remained stuck, wanting to improve but not knowing where to get it. I have met loads of lovely people, the staff are fantastic, very helpful and very patient, and the tutors are beyond wonderful. I think you could say I like it.’

— Spring 2021 survey

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