Five Oceans in a Teaspoon

Warren Lehrer Writing and Design

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"Avowel" animated poem from Five Oceans in a Teaspoon. (One of a dozen animations made for the project so far.)
"Death of a Family" animated poem from Five Oceans in a Teaspoon. (One of a dozen animations made for the project so far.)

Five Oceans in a Teaspoon is a book and multimedia project written by journalist/poet Dennis J Bernstein, visualized and structured by designer/author Warren Lehrer. A large collection of short visual poems, the 300 page book (Paper Crown Press) sits at the center of a multibranched project that also includes animations, a traveling exhibition and reading/performances. Design historian Steven Heller wrote the introduction to the book.

Divided into eight movements, the book spans a lifetime: growing up confused by dyslexia and a parental gambling addiction; graced by pogo sticks, boxing lessons and a mother’s compassion; becoming a frontline witness to war and its aftermaths, to prison, street life, love and loss, open heart surgery, caring for aging parents and visitations from them after they’re gone.

Lehrer selected the poems—out of thousands of Bernstein’s short poems written over 45 years—and arranged them into the book. Each poem lead Lehrer to a typographic composition. The ideas within the poem, its themes, metaphors, allusions, double meanings, ambiguities, subtexts, conflicts, voices, characters, structure, rhythmic cadences, pauses and silences, underlying intent—were all grist for the mill. Many of the compositions give form to the interior, emotional underpinnings of the poem. Many compositions engage the reader to become an active participant in the discovery, navigation, puzzle, and interpretation of the poem. Some compositions allude to figuration or landscape, while others work more abstractly. The typographic compositions help create experience—within and across the pages of the book and in 4D within the animations.

Warren Lehrer
Animation Design
Warren Lehrer
Dennis J Bernstein
Soundtrack composer/musician
Andrew Griffin
Austin Shaw
Project link