The Art of Poetry Film with Cheryl Gross: “A Nose That Can See Is Worth Two That Sniff”

A Nose That Can See Is Worth Two That Sniff
poem: William Carlos Williams
animation: Isaac Holland
narration: William Carlos Williams
sound and music: Skillbard
Part 4 of Poetry of Perception, an eight-part series featuring representations of perception and sensation
produced by Nadja Oertelt

It’s great to see The Fundamentals of Neuroscience embrace video poetry. Any organization that uses an art form such as this is in my opinion groundbreaking. The main reason why I even mention it is because by doing so it increases our audience.

A Nose That Can See Is Worth Two That Sniff is one in a series of animations illustrating their online course at Harvard University. Another fun one to watch, although not a video poem, is Perception Is In The Eye Of The Beholder:

Makes me want to enroll in the course.

Now getting back to A Nose That Can See Is Worth Two That Sniff: The work is incredibly charming. Beginning with the visual (my favorite place to start), the colors are somewhat subdued. This allows the viewer to glide through the poem without distraction. The illustrations are made up of flat vector computer-generated shapes. The old scratchy film effect combined with vector imagery makes it even more interesting. It’s a great blend and adds to the atmosphere of the piece. The outcome is not only successful, but bears the imprint of the artist’s unique style. I love the use of type, and the movement is terrific.

There is an echo in the voice. My guess is that it was recorded on computer or using a small microphone. It’s the poet’s own voice, which is a nice, simple touch. Perhaps the sound is deliberately distressed to match the visuals.

All in all, A Nose That Can See is Worth Two That Sniff is well worth checking out.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Cheryl Gross (website, blog) is an illustrator, painter, writer, and motion graphic artist living and working in the New York/Jersey City area. She is a professor at Pratt Institute (where she received her MFA) and Bloomfield College.

Her work has appeared in numerous festivals and publications as well as gracing the walls of many galleries, corporate and museum collections.

“I equate my work with creating and building an environment, transforming my inner thoughts into reality. Beginning with the physical process, I work in layers. I am involved in solving visual and verbal complexities such as design and narrative. My urban influence has indeed added an ‘edge’ to my work.”

Cheryl has often been compared to “Dr. Seuss on crack.”


  1. Clarification:
    The poem by William Carlos Williams is actually called “Smell”. He begins his reading, as most poets, not with the first line of the poem but with the title: “This is (the poem) ‘Smell’.”
    According to PennSound, it was recorded at Williams’ home in 1950, which accounts for the “echo in the voice”.

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