Poetry Memes!

Make sure you are following along with the video and the accompanying document at the same time! There are some important links and meme examples that you need to interact with found only in the document.

In today’s poetry class you will be making your own memes using the website imgflip as well as Know Your Meme.

Today’s lecture is entitled: Memes and Poetry

In our time of quarantine from this virus, I thought we would talk about another type of virus, a more creative one: a meme. More on the virus-meme-poetry connection here in a second!

First, I want to start off with a question: Do the worlds of Memes and poetry overlap?

The combination of words and photos can be traced in all sorts of histories and cultures. Here’s an example of an Italian Bible from 1494 with accompanying images.

Here’s a video that talks about the connection between poetry and memes. While watching, feel free to pause as you see fit:

The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins, an ethologist and evolutionary biologist. Dawkins initially defined a meme as a noun that “conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” Here’s a much larger article explaining how Richard Dawkins first conceived of memes.

Now, I do think poetry and poetic forms are types of memes. Let’s take a look at this poem by Alice Notely called “Congratulating Wedge." (Go ahead and pause this video and listen to Alice Notley read “Congratulating Wedge.”)

Congratulating Wedge is a Star Wars trading card, here’s what it looks like.

So what did you think about “Congratulating Wedge”? It’s all over the place, right? It’s seemingly random and I think this is what reminds me of memes. I feel like “Congratulating Wedge” is a string of many memes put together into one poem.

I think memes, poetry, and even stand-up comedy have so much in common. All three genres are trying to get the reader or the viewer to feel something, to react. Now, they have different means and different tools but you’re still working with an audience, a viewer or a reader and then there’s language that helps get the reader there.

Memes can also help you be more aware of rhetorical situations. Here’s a quick example of a rhetorical situation from everyday life: Would you send a text to your grandmother or grandfather the same way you would write a text to your friends? Probably not, right? And this is because you innately understand that you speak and or write to your grandparents different than you would write to your friends. This is you understanding the rhetorical situation of your text. But let’s talk about memes and rhetorical situations. In order to produce a successful meme, you have to understand the context of the meme, right?

You have to understand how the meme is used, what type of language is used, and the rhetorical situation of the meme. If you want to make a successful meme you can’t just type any words into the meme right? You have to understand the context, the concept, the backstory of the meme in order for it to be successful. This is where the website Know Your Meme comes in handy because it tells you exactly how the meme is used and gives examples.

So my task to you all is to create at least two memes that sum up your experience during your stay at home quarantine time or as I like to call it Corona Times. What is it like being stuck in your home because of COVID-19? Make two memes about your experience.

You all will be using imgflip to make your memes. Play around (play is very important in writing) with these websites for a few minutes, investigate the origins of your favorite memes at Know Your Meme and make some practice memes at imgflip and make sure to save them. Once you finish making your meme make sure to hit “generate meme”, after that you will be able to save the image of your meme as a jpeg or copy and paste the link to your meme in a separate file. Email me (gabrieldozal@gmail.com) if you’re having trouble making your meme, but it's pretty self-explanatory.






To learn how to create memes and see similarities (if any) between memes and poetry.

Education Level: 

High School




Lesson Plan

Time Frame: 

30 minutes

Prior Knowledge/Skills: 

Some familiarity with memes and how to save, copy, and paste JPEG files

Required Materials: 

A computer, tablet, or phone with internet access and sound capabilities

Literary model: 

“Do Memes and Poetry have Anything in Common?”