This series of short films, between twelve and fifteen minutes each, was specifically designed with students of literature in China in mind. The idea was to emphasise that culture is just as important as as language in understanding a poem. So eight poets were chosen, with a single poem for each poet, with the initial intention of compiling a DVD. After a brief introduction to the poet, a reading is given with scrolling text. Difficult words or concepts are explained, and then some cultural background and biographical information to modify and clarify the meaning of the poem in the eyes of the reader. For example, the reading of the relatively simple poem ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ by William Wordsworth becomes far more interesting with a discussion of the rapid growth of London during his lifetime, changes in the city’s skyline and air quality, and insight to Wordsworth as an early environmentalist later in life in opposing the building of a railway across the Lake District. After this, a further reading is given in which all these factors are made clear.

The poets chosen were as follows:

  • John Clare
  • Shakespeare
  • William Wordsworth
  • John Donne
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • John Milton
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Alfred Tennyson

All have strong visual connotations in the houses and places associated with them which can easily bring them to life. All the filming was done on location during visits to Britain, and has been integrated with rights-free black-and-white photographs and other material. The first three films are now finished, while the others are complete in their information and need editing and voice narration and the reading to be added. The first one, on John Clare, will be offered here as a free sample to watch in embedded streaming. All will eventually be made available to purchase by downloading.

Although these films were intended for a Chinese audience, and with subtitles during the narration, clearly they could be interesting for non-Chinese without the subtitles. So two versions of each film will be made available. The Chinese version will be on sale through social media accounts linked to this website.