Essay

A Map of Touches

A showcase of collage artist Tony Fitzpatrick's visual love poems.

People always ask Tony Fitzpatrick if he’s an artist who writes poetry or a poet who makes art. “Both,” he always answers.

“Sometimes I build a beautiful home for a poem,” the Chicago-based artist says, “sometimes the poem is a function of drawing; always the work serves the same thing. A great poem is a better monument than a cathedral."

In the ’80s Fitzpatrick became known as a printmaker, etching spectral portraits of pop figures and imaginative creatures—Susan Atkins and Richard Speck, Kitten Natividad and Seka, she-wolves and rat men, the Bambino—work that has found a home in the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other places. Fitzpatrick set these portraits alongside his own poems in short-run chapbooks beloved by collectors.

In the late ’90s his father, James, was diagnosed with skin cancer, and Fitzpatrick began combining artifacts from their lives together—like Chicago White Sox tickets and candy wrappers—with the paper memories his father saved in a cigar box: matchbooks, gambling slips, naked-lady playing cards.

Fitzpatrick’s poems, too, then entered his pictures and have, most recently, anchored his creations, defying (typifying) the boundary lines between his work as a poet and as an artist. The results are astral combinations of drawing, collage, and poetry, haunted by clippings from lost cities.

The proceeding nine works by Tony Fitzpatrick are “for unknown women and known women, for better and for worse, all out of heartbreak,” he says. These are, in effect, love poems composed from pieces: “Her / body / a / revelation / and / map / of / touches.”—FS


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Originally Published: February 10, 2009

COMMENTS (4)

On February 12, 2009 at 8:08am Bill Knott wrote:
. . . sexist kitsch

On February 13, 2009 at 1:39pm Mark Zimmermann wrote:
Amazingly powerful; at first I thought it

was merely clever, but then the verses

started to build: "... they are an

instrument playing a sweaty unpainted

music that flutters and shakes lightning

from dandelions ..." etc. Well-done ---

kudos to the Poetry Foundation for sharing

it here.

On April 11, 2009 at 10:36am Holly Caj Davis wrote:
Genius is definately subjective!!!!!!!!

On August 24, 2009 at 10:52pm Zafar Malik wrote:
Beautiful compositions, simply delightful and honest...

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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