What are some famous poems with pictures

by Hadassah Stichnothe

"Do not you know that,
that a poem like that
like: a flashlight
is? "(2019, n.p.)
With the Poetry comics, a multimodal anthology "for children in their prime", editor Stefanie Schweizer sheds new light on well-known and less well-known poems.

Swiss, Stefanie: Poetry comics. Poems pictures sounds.
Beltz & Gelberg, Weinheim, Basel 2019.
104 pages. € 16.95
ISBN 978-3-407-75461-5.
Recommended for ages 6 and up.


The Beltz & Gelberg publishing house has been an anthology published by Hans-Joachim Gelberg since 1969 The city of children associated with the publication and promotion of innovative children's poetry. In the later Beltz anthologies and yearbooks, the depiction of innovative children's poetry, which meets high demands both thematically and aesthetically, plays a central role. Stefanie Schweizers also tie in with this rich tradition Poetry comics to, like Gelberg's legendary (but now discontinued) children's magazine The colorful dog is addressed to "children in their prime". The subtitle "Poems, Pictures, Sounds" refers to the multimodal concept of the anthology: The total of nineteen poems are first printed on a double page, which is then followed by the title-giving poetry comics designed by various artists. In some cases it is actually a picture story divided into classic panels, in other cases illustrations that extend over one or two double pages. These visualizations are supplemented by settings of some poems, which can be called up on the website www.beltz.de/lyrikcomics (free of charge).


"You can play with poems" is the headline for the introduction to the Poetry comics and it describes very appropriately the concept of poetry or poetry mediation, which Stefanie Schweizer's literally colorful selection follows. Playing with forms and media of representation should of course only be the beginning of the playful handling of poems.

The selection of poems includes, on the one hand, authors from the first half of the 20th century such as Christian Morgenstern, Ernst Jandl and Joachim Ringelnatz, here supplemented by Mascha Kaléko, which has happily now also been re-canonized for children's poetry, with the exception of Kaléko have not written any original children's poetry, but are represented in numerous children's poetry anthologies. On the other hand, among the more recent poets there are established names such as Arne Rautenberg, Jutta Richter and Manfred Mai, but also less anthologized names such as Elisabeth Steinkellner and Anna Breitenbach. Despite many well-known names, Schweizer's selection is original and varied. In the case of Morgenstern, for example, she renounces one of the comic poems usually selected for childish addressees in favor of the love poem "Es ist Nacht" and chooses Sarah Kirsch's "Excerpt", a poetic snapshot that is impressive due to its sparse and complexity.

Poems unfold images and sounds, and the translation of poems into images and sound, which is carried out here, allows readers access to the texts that does not necessarily have to correspond to their own, but can be enriching precisely because of this. In any case, the medial transfer causes shifts that may or may not have a successful or illuminating effect. The understatement of Anna Breitenbach's "A dog and" is complemented by the portrayal of Kristina Heldmann. In a forest painted in shimmering shades of green and brown, the lines of poetry grow up the tree trunks and the dog's memory image only peeps out of a water surface at second glance.

The self-sufficient love of language in Jandl's "ottos mops", on the other hand, is lost in the - quite appealing - illustration by Sabine Kranz, which shows a huge pug on a white background in and around which the action takes place. But it is precisely this concretization that has a disadvantageous effect in Jandl's poem, which in itself functions like a graphic. From the blocks of o’s, which almost reach into the concrete and are structured by the anaphor "otto", the illustration turns into a dog story. On the one hand this is correct in terms of content, on the other hand it unintentionally shows how strong the typeface is part of a poem. Ultimately, this leads to the question of whether poems like Jandl's, in which signifiant and signifié enter into an equal and therefore multi-meaningful relationship, are actually suitable for a project like that of the lyric comics. It is possible that there are also poems that resist their transmedia adaptation. Something of this rebelliousness may have persuaded the editor not to have "ottos mops" set to music.

In some cases, too, one would have wished for a little more respect for the verse boundary than the lyric as a constituent feature. Other images (stories), on the other hand, expand the level of meaning through bold interpretations. A pleasant surprise are especially those implementations that develop their own story from the text, as in the case of Claudia Weikert's comic "Auf den Fels one should go up" (text: Michael Hammerschmid), or whose graphic composition develops from the text, as at Kranz's illustration of "das wuhuu". Max Fiedler, on the other hand, in his version of Josef Guggenmos '"Untererm Rasen" brings a megacity of urban worms, grubs and butterflies to life and thus interprets the "secret" of worms' lives in a very unique way without ultimately stating it: "But what they are there below / in the dark, in the cool, / the worms that many feel / when digging - / no language describes it. / It is a secret and remains so. " (n.p.)

Not all of the poems in the collection have been set to music, which in some cases may be preferable. Others seem to offer themselves to be set to music. In Merle Weißbach's recording of "das wuuhuu", for example, the onomatopoeia of the original text is used as an occasion for a gruesomely playful interpretation of Rautenberg's poem. Even the song-like "Sometimes" by Manfred Mai seems to call for a musical interpretation and the lyrical self of Michael Hammerschmid's "Auf den Fels one should go up" finally states: "A song / should be sung". Jörg Isermeyer's version of Joachim Ringelnatz '"Die Seifenblase" is also a success, which quotes the nautical gestures of the poet and sailor Ringelnatz with carefree evil humor with accordion sounds.

The Poetry comics With their concept of visualization or setting to music, they offer new ways of viewing and reading well-known and less well-known texts and are therefore of interest to both experienced and aspiring poetry enthusiasts. The declared aim here is of course to whet the readers' appetite for (even more) poetry. Schweizer's anthology has clearly succeeded in this.


An original collection of poems that offers children in their prime (which in this case could start around the age of six) a variety of incentives to experience poems in words, images and sounds and to explore them individually. It remains to be seen until October whether the Poetry comics receive this year's youth literature award for which they are deservedly nominated.

An overview of the nominations for the German Youth Literature Award 2020 can be found here (with further reviews on KinderundJugendmedien.de)