Vine: Crafting a Video Poem That Eats Itself

Way back in June, when I first started to use the Vine app (with its six seconds of video limit) with the Making Learning Connnected MOOC, I pondered how one might conceive of it as more than a documentation of life. I wondered if there were ways to tell a story in just six seconds. I played around with Vine and created this “story” of a letter to the future. It sort of worked. I guess.

I’m still pondering Vine, it turns out, and the #walkmyworld project (of documenting our world in social media) has brought the video app back into focus because organizer Ian O’Byrne has suggested that folks use Vine as a way to do that documenting. I’ve since shared a few Vines, particularly of my house as I wander through my day. And I have kept an eye out for pieces about Vine to help me think about its possibilities. (Check out this post of Six Second Movies and there is even a Tribeca Six Second Film Fest.)

But my friend Molly Shields has been openly mulling overĀ  how to use Vine as digital storytelling platform. Me, too. And with the expected future shift of #walkmyworld into digital poetry (in my previous post, I stumbled on the term of “video haiku” to define Vine, and I still like that way of imagining it), I had a few Twitter-based conversations with Molly about how to go about doing that.

You have to think of the limitations: six seconds does not allow for a lot of lines of poetry. The looping effect of Vine is intriguing because it brings the end of the poem right back to the start of the poem. If you don’t consider that effect, the poem could have a jarring effect — stopping suddenly and restarting.

During the afternoon, as I was at my son’s basketball game, a poem came to me. I didn’t have paper, so I had to jot it down in the back cover of the book I was reading. I tinkered with words, trying to make it fit within the limitations and trying to make it resemble a snake eating itself — an MC Escher of a poem that wraps back on itself. I didn’t have my ipad with me, so the writing was the heart of what I was doing, even as I had a mental stopwatch in my head. The people next to me probably though I was a lunatic, mouthing the words and watching my son’s game clock to keep track of seconds. (ha)

Here is the poem:

I think in ink –
I burrow thoughts that shrink
down to the screen
when …

It turns out the writing was the easy part. Shooting the video was much more difficult , and I tried a few different ways to get at it until I decided on taking three angled shots, reading parts of the poem as I looked off into the distance. I’m not sure I like it, though. Not because of the way the video came out but because the visual lacks an important element: metaphor. I realize now that I should have lifted a small screen (iPod or something) in the last frames.


We write. We play. We experiment. We learn.

Peace (along the vines of creativity),

PS — In 2012, at NCTE, I gave an Ignite Talk about short-form writing. I wonder how it might be different now with Vine and other media apps in the mix.



  1. Kevin:

    Wow. I had the same thought about the ourobouros (that’s the word that pops into my head for an image of the snake with its tail in its mouth). This is such an interesting concept, and one that I think I need to explore. So glad to know that other people have moments when they’re sure that people around them think they’ve lost it, because they’re thinking out loud.

    I very much like the text version you created….I also wonder about creating a spiral of words, or an ongoing circle…things to explore.

  2. Kevin,

    I just love that the questioning of possibilities seems to speak longer and has a more central narrative in the creation of your Vine poem – this in itself is a wonderful metaphor of the writing loop (process?) writers create.

    I’ve also been thinking about the limitations of Vine. I struggle with the application because of the confining uses, but I also think that this is just my perspective. Some of the projects that are produced by others (probably) wouldn’t even find fodder in my mind, which signals to me that I need to use it more. Its limitations are my limitations, not others’. Many would say the same about short story form, of which I live and love. Perhaps I need to live in other forms of limitations to remove perceived obstacles.

    Regarding your “Writing, In Short” NCTE Ignite talk – fantastic. I am jealous of current students’ possibilities for bursts of profoundness. Imagine entire days of receiving snippets (inundations!) of things that can be explored deeper, on their time, within their limits. It’s what we’re doing now as adults, but to go through an entire education following the “What if?” question is hope-filled. (Have you read my “Pedagogy of Hope”?

    I can’t wait to see how each world connects through these possibilities and explorations. Are we connecting our own worlds, making sense individually? Collectively? Superficially? How does form influence perception? How does social media affect how we select form and perceive others? Ian’s code-switching has thrown me for a loop – I don’t want to code-switch while branding (eck), but I don’t know why. So many overlays to examine…


    • What I find interesting is that we don’t know where all this is going, do we? So, it’s an adventure and we teachers need to dive in, explore and figure out learning possibilities. You can’t do that from the sidelines. I loved your blog post. It hit on a lot of important notes for me.

      • I think I need “you can’t do it from the sidelines” on a t-shirt. This is what it’s all about for me, as a teacher exploring digital literacy. I have to get in and get messy, and sometimes, the more I do that, the more I realize how difficult it is for some people to do it.

        • One t-shirt … coming up. Well, maybe not. I’m not maker of shirts. But I love that logo. Or it could be simply: “I Like to Play with Learning.” Thanks for stopping by and I hope you jump on in.

  3. Incredible idea to not only get kids writing digitally but using a form that they all seem to use. While I’m not a big fan of Vine (I’m first a parent–3rd, 6th, and 8th but also a long time HS English teacher now K-12 Supervisor.) I love the idea of using it purposefully to encourage creativity and writing. I will definitely encourage it to be tried by my teachers and of course my 6th grade who LOVES to write! And you’re right, we don’t know where all this tech is going to take us but the excitement and adventure it’s bringing is worth the ride.

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