A page from the "Poetry through the Ages" exhibit...

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From jingles to motion pictures.

Aside from the snippets of rock, folk, country, blues, and hip-hop lyrics found in television commercials, examples of poetry’s usage in mass media and advertising revolve around three forms: jingoisms used in corporate advertising, creative magazine headlines, and much more representative treatment in the movies.


Corporate advertising slogans have created a mini-industry of their own, as agency and freelance writers try to create the perfect catchphrase that will launch a campaign into multi-million dollar orbit. Some of the memorable slogans of the past twenty years include:

"Relax, it’s FedEx"
"Obey your thirst"
"Have it your way"
"Just do it"
"Tastes great, less filling"
"Let your fingers do the Dew"
A few enterprising writers have even tied together one-liners to create humorous poetry that could be considered, in one sense, the 21st century mass media version of the limerick. Here are examples from poet/consumer advertising advocate Ilya Vedrashko, whose blog, "MIT Advertising Lab," was named "Best Blog of the Year" by Fast Company magazine in 2005:
Where do you want to go today?
Obey your thirst. Have it your way.
Reach out, think outside the bun.
Just do it. Prepare to own one.

Expect more, pay less,

Tastes great, less filling.
Flick my Bic, experience success.
Got milk? Go get the feeling.

Let your fingers do the Dew,

Invent the ultimate driving machine.
You are due, definitely due.
Think, but please don’t squeeze the Charmin.

Wassup?! Can you hear?

Me? Now? In your mirror
the objects are closer
than they appear.

Snippets in print.

Magazine headlines are fun to examine for their poetic twists and turns. Wise editors understand that, in this world of information overload, they must have a punchy headline and lead paragraph to capture a reader’s attention. Whether through alliteration, rhyme, double entendre, oxymoron, or reference to a cultural touchstone, headline writers tap into the reader’s curiosity or sense of delight in only a few words.


"The End of Spend" - Effects of the credit crunch on consumers (rhyme)

"Head Games" - Why girls are at greater risk for sports concussions than boys (double entendre)

"Blueprint Brigade" - Engineers who help developing countries with low-tech, high-impact projects (alliteration)

"Generation X-mas" - Why the 1983 movie, A Christmas Story, is iconic for the post-Baby Boom generation (wordplay)


"Prime Cuts" - A profile of great Latino chefs in the U.S. (wordplay)

"Hot Ice" - The greed associated with diamond mining in the Amazon (oxymoron)


"Gray’s Anatomy of Style" - Why women should incorporate the color gray into their wardrobes (double entendre using the cultural touchstone of a popular TV show)

"Cloche Encounters" - A profile of a woman who transformed a barn into a hat showroom (wordplay)


"Radio Free Everywhere" - The phenomenon of Internet radio (wordplay on CIA "Radio Free" news stations)

"Riders on the Storm" - Meteorologists seed hurricanes in order to diminish them (repurposed song title from The Doors)

Lights. Camera. Action.

Hundreds of movies have featured poetry in various forms. The most notable recent examples include sweeping tributes to the poem in Shakespeare in Love and Dead Poets Society, and memorable scenes from a number of films, in which screenwriters and directors utilized poetry in crucial, plot-turning situations – paying great homage to verse in the process.

In the first card game scene from In The Bedroom, W. Clapham Murray reads from William Blake’s "Auguries of Innocence":

The Beggar’s Dog and Widow’s Cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.
The Gnat that sings his Summer’s song
Poison gets from Slander’s tongue.
Later, in the second card game scene, Tom Wilkinson quotes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
There are things of which I may not speak;
There are dreams that cannot die;
There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,
And bring a pallor into the cheek,
And a mist before the eye.
And the words of that fatal song
Come over me like a chill:
A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.
Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director Woody Allen has incorporated poetry from e.e. cummings, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Emily Dickinson, among others, into his films. In Hannah and Her Sisters, he gives Lee these choice lines from cummings’ "somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond," which she recites just before she consummates an affair with Elliot:
your slightest look will easily unclose me
though I have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens.
In the rebellious Francis Ford Coppola movie, The Outsiders, C. Thomas Howell famously recites Robert Frost’s "Nothing Gold Can Stay," which reads:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.