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A Brief, Belated Review of “Twelve Visual Poems” (edited by Geof Huth, from the November issue of Poetry)

By Jason Guriel

Actually, I don’t have too much to say about the poems themselves, which I found pleasant enough. But surely these poems deserve a livelier critical commentary than the polite one Geof Huth supplies.


In phrases like “the textual materiality of language,” “the ultimate artificiality of linguistic signs,” and “reconstitute the meaning,” to name a few, I don’t hear Huth, but I do hear some of the professors I’ve had over the years. Perhaps you hear some of yours. Having taught a bit, myself, I recognize the usefulness of prepackaged phrases, phrases which can be unpacked for the students. But in addition to its mildly academic jargon, Huth’s language surrenders to more obvious formulations:
“Visual poetry provides a reading challenge to most readers…forcing the reader to delve ever more deeply into the text to sift meaning out…”
“The results are stunning and enigmatic textscapes that a reader must sift through…”
“…deconstructing found texts to tease out hidden meanings.”
“This portfolio of twelve works provides only a hint to the richness and variety of today’s visual poetry.”
“These twelve pieces by these thirteen people represent the smallest slice of their work…”
“[mIEKAL aND] uses these [scripts] to allow us to see written language with new eyes…”
This stuff isn’t bad – and the aforementioned jargon is understood easily enough – but it is conspicuously bland, which leads me to wonder: who is contemporary visual poetry’s Clive James, or Michael Hofmann, or Carmine Starnino, or Ange Mlinko, to name but a few regulars in Poetry, regulars who, despite what you may think of their respective opinions, can write sparkling sentences to order? In other words, who is contemporary visual poetry’s critical prose stylist, that person who has equipped it with a clear and original critical language? (And I’m well aware that such a person can exist outside of the pages of Poetry!)
Again, I enjoyed the visual poems – indeed, I thought Huth’s own piece, “jHegaf,” a delightful entanglement of type and maybe the best of the batch he corralled– but I wonder: what else can visual poems do, besides challenge conventional ways of communicating, or call attention to their materiality, or recruit the reader (who always seems to be vulnerable to some avant-garde’s draft board) into making their meaning? Or is the mild poverty of the buzz-words which these poems seem to attract an indication of the poems’ limitations, an indication that they are, finally, anachronistic curios, doomed to be confined to their zines (whether mimeographed or electronic) or the glossy special sections (cordoned off from the other poems) in magazines like Poetry?
Great criticism is powered by great enthusiasm. Obviously Huth has an investment in visual poems. His own skill in sculpting the things is clear. But in his studious sentences about them I don’t hear enthusiasm – or, at least, the level of enthusiasm that’s necessary to press clusters of words into fresh configurations, an enthusiasm that crackles through, say, Hugh Kenner’s The Pound Era, which remains a wonderfully written book on the experiments of another era, no matter what you may feel about some of those experiments.
I apologize if any of this sounds elitist. Good writing is hard and, as I think (and hope) my first post communicates, something I know that I need to work on, too. I certainly don’t mean to play ‘gotcha criticism,’ since I’ve made my share of mistakes. But as it stands, I empathize with poor Amadeo in the novel The Savage Detectives, who, exasperated with a concrete poem, needs a little first-rate guidance.
So: is there a substantial study on visual poetry that is also a pleasure to read, in and of itself? A picture’s worth a thousand words, but in the case of the ‘pictures’ made by visual poets, whose thousand words should I be reading? If contemporary visual poetry isn’t just an anachronistic curio, where is its great – and I can’t italicize this enough – jargon-free criticism?
PS My question marks are real, not rhetorical. Originally, I was going to submit this piece as a letter to Poetry, but here, at least, people can answer the questions!
PPS I urge everyone to go inspect the actual poems (link still above) since they are interesting works.

Comments (23)

  • On January 22, 2009 at 11:33 am John Bloomberg-Rissman wrote:

    One book I like is Craig Dworkin’s *Reading the Illegible*, which is certainly a pleasure to read. There are essays by bp Nichol which are good reading, too.

  • On January 22, 2009 at 11:45 am Bill Knott wrote:

    . . . i did a “review” of it too—
    see the post entitled “Vizpoems are the perfume ads of poetry”
    on my prose blog

  • On January 22, 2009 at 11:57 am Chris Piuma wrote:

    There is also Geof’s blog, which may still be too “polite” for you, but which has been working out some foundations for discourse on visual poetry for a few years.
    You write: “what else can visual poems do, besides challenge conventional ways of communicating, or call attention to their materiality, or recruit the reader (who always seems to be vulnerable to some avant-garde’s draft board) into making their meaning?”
    This is the sort of thing that happens when you expect poetry to “do” anything at all. The detritus of the MFA program approach to endlessly justifying poetry. But the things you mention getting done are some of the very things I most want “non-visual poetry” to do, so I’m not sure what you’re fishing for here. What, are you asking if visual poetry can make you cry? can topple down governments? I think it has as good a chance as “non-visual poetry”.

  • On January 22, 2009 at 5:36 pm Evan Jones wrote:

    Jason,
    I liked, or at least was amused by, what the Times Literary Supplement (No. 5512, November 21 2008) had to say about about the visual poems, and in particular Joel Lipman’s ‘Origins of Poetry':
    “[S]ome of the works are not poems at all, containing no words, or at least none legible (one is composed of the letter “e”). Lipman’s attempt is closer to the traditional poster poem as we know it from the inventive oeuvre of Christopher Logue. According to the accompanying note, Lipman’s technique “creates a frisson between the apparently unrelated base text and Lipman’s overtext …. It is poetry enhanced by the distinctive appearance of the words”. Well, maybe….”
    Note the condescending ‘attempt’ in the second sentence, followed closely by the imperial ‘we’ and then the dignifying reference to local Logue. Different world over here.

  • On January 22, 2009 at 5:55 pm Paul wrote:

    Haha, jargon-free criticism, good luck with that. ‘I like it’. ‘I didn’t understand it.’ ‘It was boring.’ Anything else is just jargon.

  • On January 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm Geof Huth wrote:

    Jason,
    Thanks for enjoying the visual poems, which was my main goal in this endeavor. Visual poetry, and poetry itself, exists primarily for our enjoyment–anything more is either pointless or icing. I do find it refreshing to be criticized for my writing rather than having to defend visual poetry itself one more time.
    I fear, no matter how sad this is to say, that I might actually be “contemporary visual poetry’s Clive James, or Michael Hofmann, or Carmine Starnino, or Ange Mlinko,” though I’d have to read what they’ve done to be sure. Visual poetry has survived the onslaught of my words so far, though I hope the best for it with or without me. I’ll read over what I wrote sometime soon to see if my words fall as dully to me now as they have to you.
    Thanks for the kind words on my little typoglyph (my own personal jargon term). I did not want to include any visual poems by myself in this, but the folks at “Poetry” wanted something for the “cover” of the selection and didn’t want to use any of the work of others I had suggested.
    And that Bill Knott–always a card. I’ve got to search out his review next. Don’t know how I missed it.
    Geof

  • On January 22, 2009 at 10:54 pm Mary Meriam wrote:

    Here’s my take-home sentence:
    Great criticism is powered by great enthusiasm.

  • On January 23, 2009 at 7:50 am Martin Earl wrote:

    Jason, thanks for taking up the subject of visual poetry, which, for my money, is getting more interesting the more it brings in the new digital and electronic technologies that are increasingly available. When it is both expressive with, and questioning of the technology it seems most exciting. I was never really that interested in the stuff until I moved to Portugal and discovered the work of Manuel Portela, among others. He led me to the very strong Brazilian visual poetry scene. Manuel, besides being one of Portugal’s most important translators, is also a fabulous poet, and an eloquent critic. Here is a link to one of his recent studies (which includes sound effects and graphics). A very worthwhile stop for anyone interested in the subject:
    http://leoalmanac.org/journal/vol_14/lea_v14_n05-06/mportela.asp
    At any rate, thanks for touching on a much neglected world.
    Martin

  • On January 23, 2009 at 9:23 am Jason Guriel wrote:

    John and Bill, thanks for the suggestions.
    Evan, Paul, and Mary, thanks for your input (and Evan, yes, it is a different world in the UK).
    Chris, I appreciate your comments. I don’t expect poems to do any of the things you mention. I’m happy if they’re just entertaining. Perhaps I should’ve phrased my question this way: “What else can visual poems do within our critical discussions of them? Or put another, better, more Kennedy-esque way: what else can our critical discussions do for these poems? – poems that are interesting but (at least in Huth’s piece, in my opinion) often addressed in a predictable language. In other words, I don’t think visual poems – or poems, in general – need to do anything they don’t already do (whatever that may be); I just wonder if there are less obvious ways to discuss whatever it is they already do. For example, when it comes to visual poems, are there critical writings that recall the vividness of, say, Benjamin’s reading of the Angel of History or Pater’s description of the Mona Lisa (a description so good it moved Yeats to treat it like a found poem and line it)? If, however, threadbare phrases like “textual materiality of language,” among the others listed – phrases even I’ve found myself recycling in seminars, because they can provide a useful shorthand – if these phrases don’t seem well-worn, then my questions may not have much resonance, or even make much sense, which is fine.
    Geof, many thanks for your comments. For what it’s worth, I think you made an enjoyable selection and the magazine gave them a nice presentation. I’m glad the editors insisted you include that poem.

  • On January 23, 2009 at 9:36 am Jason Guriel wrote:

    Geof deserves the praise for “touching on a much neglected world” in his original piece, Martin. But thanks for the note and the link.

  • On January 23, 2009 at 10:14 am Manoel Cartola wrote:

    I think how you read Geof’s criticism in part depends on who you think its audience is. Sure, when I read it I found it to rehash the gereal concepts that I’ve heard before (particularly in relation to concretism in Brazil– see: de Campos). However, POETRY does have readers who aren’t as schooled as you. Geof’s writing was, in my reading, directed to those readers who need a general “introduction” to concrete/Visual poetics. I do think his introduction wasn’t “lively” enough and frankly, I don’t think any of the visual poets presented in his “survey” adequately represent the possiblities of Visual/Concrete Poetry and/or Text-Art (though piringer’s piece does, rather simplistically, demonstrate “Vizpoetry’s” possiblities in a very accessible form and is therefore a great piece with which to introduce uninitiated readers).
    I do agree with you.
    And in a sense, Geof’s piece seemed more like an advertisement (which, when you think about it, it is) and I don’t think he “marketed” “Vizpoetry” very enthusiastically.
    This excerpt is one that makes me stop to think:
    “One important notion to keep in mind while reading visual poetry is that it makes sense via more than just the text itself. Color, shape, and arrangement—including proximity to, and integration with, images—are important elements in the meaning of any visual poem.”
    -Does one really “read” a visual poem (in the traditional sense)?
    Heck, most poems “make sense via more than just the text itself” do they not?
    And, another thing to mull over is: do visual/concrete poems and “text-art” consciously resist the excessively-intellectual hermeneutics or the rage for order-meaning? I have often considered them to do just that… to exalt form over content/meaning.
    Thanks Jason. I’m glad you brought this up. I do most certainly think there is a lack of criticism and writing about visual and concrete poetry. Yet this may be because it (often consciously) resists interpretation. (?)
    Here is a link I found and I’m pasting it just for kicks (even the Greeks had their own concretisms):
    http://www.theoi.com/Text/PatternPoems.html

  • On January 23, 2009 at 11:03 am Jason Guriel wrote:

    Thanks, Manny, for your thoughts, especially given the frostiness of my last response to you (and my apologies for that). But let me stress that I’m not that schooled. If anything, I found Huth’s piece a little too academic. I suppose the kind of writing I would like to see more of (at least in the world of visual poetry) is the kind you see sometimes in Slate or the New Yorker or Harper’s – smart, exciting, but reasonably accessible writing that doesn’t lean too heavily on a ‘loaned-out’ lexicon. Ange Mlinko’s piece on Ashbery, in the Nation, would be a good example, or Carmine Starnino’s recent piece on Irish poets, in Poetry. (Or, combing through the past, Randall Jarrell on Marianne Moore, or, in terms of pop music, Lester Bangs on Just About Anything.) Mary Meriam’s cool review of a cool Michael Robbins’ poem, on another thread of mine, exemplifies that kind of writing. (Has anyone EVER compared a poem to a Darth Vader mask?)
    Thanks again, Manny, and I’ll look forward to the link.

  • On January 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm troylloyd wrote:

    i agree w/ Manoel that Geof was writing for a very specific audience & i think he did a fine job being clear & concise enough for a reaer who was clueless of vispo, could immediately grasp a proximation of the form & function of such poetics.
    it sounds as if you desire a kind of “gonzo criticism”, & i understand where you’re coming from, but a critism such as that has its own place — as you mention Lester Bangs, what if Rolling Stone had never publish’d him? would he still have become the creemy dreamboat we romanticize about today?
    i like how Lydia Lunch writes:
    “I wasn’t expecting the toilets at CBGB’s to be the bookends to Duchamp’s urinal, but then again, maybe 1977 had more in common with 1917 than anyone at the time could have imagined. The anti-art invasion of Dada in Switzerland and the surrealist pranksters who shadowed them had a blast pissing all over everybody’s expectations. The anti-everything of No Wave was a collective caterwaul that defied categorization, defiled the audience, despised convention, [expletive] in the face of history, and then split. It’s only a movement in retrospect. Post-Suicide, pre­Sonic Youth New York was the devil’s dirty litter box. No Wave was the waste product of Taxi Driver, Times Square, the Son of Sam, the blackout of ’77, widespread political corruption, rampant poverty, the failure of the Summer of Love, the [expletive] of Charles Manson, the hell of the Vietnam War, and a desperate need to violently rebel against the complacency of a zombie nation dumbed down by sitcoms and disco. Yes, we were angry, ugly, snotty, and loud. But better to brutalize the audience with screeching guitars and piercing screams than to beat them over the head with fists and feet … which, okay, sometimes we did, but most nights we’d rather [expletive] than fight. You guessed right if you thought the toilets of CBGB’s sang a song of diseased lust to my raging hormones. ”
    but i also like how Steve McCaffery writes:
    here writing about soundpoetry, which is closely related to visual poetry:
    from: Prior to Meaning
    “The ear, observes Certeau, “is the delicate skin caressed or irritated by sound: an errogenous zone, exacerbated, so to speak, by the interdictions which banish from language and good manners, coarseness, vulgarity and finally passions”. How, then, to define the ear’s most in intimate lover – the voice? Régis Durand (1977) demonstrates the volatility of voice as a cultural and psychoanalytic concept positioned between reality and representation and functioning as both a metaphorical support of pure time and a physical production. Writing comes into being through the midwifery of fingers and a competence with encoded incisions. But in order to reach Cedrteau’s errogenous zone, human sound, like human birth, must pass from a cavity through a hole dilated under pressure. Indeed, “voice” seems inadequate to describe the full workings of this organ-concept, and Certeau’s definition of it as ” a sign of the body that comes and speaks”, by factoring out the complex buccal and respiratory labor essential to its functioning, proves insufficient. Voice is a polis of mouth, lips, teeth, tongue, tonsils, palate, breath, rhythm, timbre, and sound; less a component than a production of a materiopneumatic assemblage of interacting bone, liquid, cartilage, and tissue. Enjoying such complexity, even a single voice resonates as a simultaneity of corporeal, acoustic events; the consequence of energy and respiratory force in flight through fixed cavities and adjusttable tensors.”
    & i’m so autodidactic that i mispronounce autodidact.
    i don’t think itsa question of schooling, sometimes, reading about learning how to read is better left unread — but it’s silly to dismiss certain strains of critical writing because they use precise logical wordchoice/concepts, as opposed to the more emotional/poppish amphetamine-driven accessible gonzo/outsider strain — both avenues are equally valid & valuable.
    & what, exactly, lexicon isn’t loan’d out?

  • On January 24, 2009 at 2:42 pm Zachariah Wells wrote:

    I think what Jason’s getting at is that these particular phrases are imprecise and, moreover, deadened by overuse. In a word, cliched. The problem isn’t that they’re jargon. Jargon is very useful, when it’s descriptive. Iamb is a jargon term. Simile. Metrical substitution. Quatrain. Anaphora. The problem with the sort of phrase Jason highlights is that it sounds rather more like the answer to a catechism than the particular response of an engaged individual reader. Correct me if I’m wrong, Jason.
    In my limited experience, I’ve found people either all too willingly to talk about visual and concrete poetries in the lexicon of academic bafflegab, or, for reasons I think Manoel rightly observes, they don’t want to talk about it at all. I tried to get one of the visual poets highlighted by Huth to write a review of a book of visual poems once and he declined. Here’s how he put it:
    “not everyone wishes to be a didact. when i encounter ‘art’ of any stripe i never feel the need to have it explained to me by “experts”. i make my work for those with similar inclinations. and globally, there are plenty of us.
    to be perfectly honest, i’m tired of all these terms, all the defining, explaining and justifying which only ever seems to amount to talking to drywall.”

  • On January 24, 2009 at 7:08 pm Jason Guriel wrote:

    Yes, Zach, I guess I’ve been trying to talk about cliches, and in my struggle to find some synonyms for the word “cliches” (e.g., obvious formulations, loaned-out lexicons, etc.), I’ve been unclear, and have wound up conflating “jargon” and “cliche,” creating more confusion. “In a word, cliched,” is what you write, and I probably should’ve stuck to “a word,” as you did.
    In my defense, though, negative connotations often seem to cling to the word “jargon”, at least in my mind (but then that’s usually where my troubles start). And I do wonder if the line between “jargon” and “cliche” is not quite so crisp and depends on context? For example, perhaps that phrase “textual materiality of language,” in a theory seminar, is useful postmodern jargon but, in the pages of Poetry, is merely a cliche.
    Or perhaps I’m being imprecise, though I don’t mind risking imprecision, from time to time, in pursuit of less mildewy prose. Cliches are useful – e.g. “from time to time,” etc. – and I hold my own prose up to ever more outside scrutiny the longer I pull at this (post’s) thread. But I just found too many cliches in Huth’s piece, especially given its relative brevity. But maybe others out there don’t find phrases like “the transformative power of language,” among the many quoted above, to be as tired as I do. And with these folks, my ultimate question – where’s the great criticism on visual poetry? – will not resonate.
    I appreciate, Troylloyd, the less complacent examples of prose you’ve shared. And I suppose ‘complacency’ is what I’m complaining about, a little too much satisfaction with preexisting expressions. Or is it sloppiness? On his own blog, Huth writes, “I had written [the piece] in a flurry of activity in my aunt’s dining room in Burlingame, California.” I can’t account for the demands on Huth’s attention – a cursory glance at an online profile of Huth suggests he has more demands than I do – but this sounds like Huth is open to the possibility, even if others aren’t, that his prose could’ve been a bit rushed or passed over (in terms of his attention).
    But as initially stated, I don’t think Huth’s piece is “bad” or even unclear. And I’m sure he’s done much for visual poetry.
    And I’m not advocating for “gonzo” criticism. Indeed, I find terms like “gonzo” limiting. Hugh Kenner and Lester Bangs may have operated in different worlds but they’re both great writers. If I “desire” anything it’s great writing, the best of which tends to avoid cliches and outlast categories and not be satisfied with its “own place” for long.

  • On January 24, 2009 at 11:11 pm troylloyd wrote:

    -where’s the great criticism on visual poetry?-
    In my book, Geof Huth is one of the most important critics we have on visual poetry, maybe i shouldn’t use the term critic, he’s an extremely critical reader who shares his readings w/ interest’d folks — he’s also a great visual poet, from way back when in the zine days. Thru his blog i’ve been turn’d on to many vispoets i’d never know about, i’ve garnered new ways of lookreading & i’ve come to understand some vital tenets of visual poetries, all thru reading Geof’s blog, which he posts on every single day. If you spend some time going thru his archives, you’ll discover what an attentive reader he is, & he’s not afraid to say when something doesn’t work or if he simply doesn’t like something, he’s as honest as they come & his ingrain’d passion is self-evident.
    here’s a short article somewhat related to his being ask’d to do a portfolio for Poetry:
    visual poetry: what it is & is not
    & here’s an interview w/ him that’s well worth reading:
    an interview w/ Geof
    again, i state the fact his writing was intend’d to be an introduction, a primer, a keyhole to lead those so interest’d about finding out more to the simple doorknob for entry. The fact that there was even a visual poetry portfolio in Poetry is stunning & difficult enough for “pure poetry” folks to digest as being a legimate form of poetry — the last thing one would want to do is go off onna wildride tangent of transgressive threshing & risk even further alienation!
    i appreciate great writing as well, but your great writing is different from my great writing — even when we all read the same book, the pages are different for each of us.

  • On January 25, 2009 at 12:57 am nico vassilakis wrote:

    jason guriel? sorry, i havent heard of you. or you of me. would i be amiss in saying, nothing you’ve done is remotely related to visual poetry or that you haven’t spent time looking further than the limited and limiting portfolio (10 visual poets) geof huth culled for mainstream POETRY? i ask because, of course, i wonder how you can even review, briefly or belatedly, something you don’t know? saying the poems are “pleasant enough” or “i enjoyed the visual poems” is the extent of your offering. you backhandedly arouse contempt about visual poetry in the minds of those who know nothing about it. your blog entry is a pleasant smelling negative comment. you jab at the preface, but miss the surface. you want explainations. you want quantifiable results. most critics aren’t even practitioners of the thing they critique. art critics, theatre critics, music critics, etc.
    i have to agree with you though, that there is little in the way of current text pertaining to visual poetry. you can go to KALDRON to seek some answers. visual poetry is a worldwide endeavor. your lack of information in a setting like harriet is unfortunate. you do a disservice squabbling over geof’s preface.
    but perhaps, the silver lining is that you may help spark a call to arms to those truly interested in visual poetry – to write about it. beyond comments in a blog would cetainly be a starting point, eh?
    thanks and no thanks jason guriel whoever you are.

  • On January 25, 2009 at 8:43 am Jason Guriel wrote:

    Troylloyd, thanks for the resources.
    Nico, I have heard of you, and you would be “amiss” in saying that I “haven’t spent time looking further than the limited and limiting portfolio (10 visual poets) geof huth culled for mainstream POETRY.” I live in Canada, where bpNichol is regarded as a literary icon by the “mainstream.” I took Steve McCaffrey’s class, as an undergraduate at York University, where I was exposed to much visual poetry. As a graduate student, I’ve taught bpNichol’s visual poetry to undergraduates, with enthusiasm. But I appreciate the KALDRON link.
    I would hope that visual poets don’t need an unknown like me to rally their critical cause. I would hope that the visual poems themselves are enough.

  • On January 25, 2009 at 9:31 am Zachariah Wells wrote:

    Nico Vassilakis? Sorry, I haven’t heard of you.
    See how easy that is? It’s a passive-aggressive formulation of the argument from authority. Seems to me Jason wasn’t pretending to know anything in his post. He was asking questions. A bit of a “disservice” to, effectively, tell him he doesn’t know sh– in response.
    In my experience–again, limited–whenever some vispo outsider dares to say anything remotely critical of something related to vispo, there’s always some vispo insider–often a choir of ‘em–leaping up to shout “philistine!” As an example, in a riposte to Carmine Starnino’s review of the anthology Shift & Switch, a book that is co-edited by one of the vispoets in Huth’s feature, Katherine Parrish told Carmine to “stop pissing in our end of the pool.” Keep in mind that this is an anthology that even Ron Silliman couldn’t find much good to say about.
    In my much more extensive experience with criticism of lineated textual poetry, most critics–and almost all of the most interesting ones–actually are practitioners. I recently read Paul Muldoon’s Oxford lectures, for instance. I can’t tell you how many times my jaw dropped at the sheer brilliance of his insights into various poems. (I can’t tell you how many times I scratched my head over some bizarre stretches, too, but genius is usually uneven.) This isn’t a matter of “explainations” [sic–again, see how easy this is?] or “quantifiable results.” It’s a question of the criticism itself being a work of literature, a pleasure to read, not merely workmanlike and pedagogically useful.
    I haven’t read Huth’s writing elsewhere, but Jason’s right about the prose in Poetry. And this is what he is responding to, not to the poems and not to Huth’s critical oeuvre writ large. The text accompanying the poems reads like exhibit catalog boiler plate. Better to take the stance of the poet I quoted in my last response and say nothing.

  • On January 25, 2009 at 3:13 pm nico vassilakis wrote:

    jason, i can appreciate bpNichols’ lineage, but we’re still talking 20-30yrs ago. current work in visualpoetry has exploded. your question of available criticism is about a lack of organization on this side of the visual poetry fence. i can understand that. vispoets don’t have overly ambitious agendas. they’re not flarf or conceptual or o=t=h=e=r poets. but an overview of textual response to visual poetry is a necessary item. yet there are no major presses that take on visual poets. there are no grants for this category. visual poetry is locked in purgatory. a segue literature that is considered a bastard child – barely making it to the table. they get less than scraps. it seemed impossible that POETRY included vispo – pretty amazing. and doing that has brought about this conversation.
    zach? part of the problem is that lineated textual response to visual poetry is typically descriptive. offers little more than telling me what im looking at. i hope for a textual response to a visual poem or a collection visual poetry that blends with the poem/s to create new writing and seeing. this idea of insider and outsider …not the people i know, but i know it happens. i would have prefered if jason spoke to the work – as he did title his entry a review.

  • On January 25, 2009 at 11:07 pm troylloyd wrote:

    wellsaid nico.
    i can only quote R. Johnson:
    VISTA
    _____
    eye-lid
    a f t e r
    eye-lid
    Ө Ө

  • On January 26, 2009 at 2:03 pm Jason Guriel wrote:

    Zach, Nico, and Troylloyd, thanks for the comments and conversation.
    I hope my mention of bpNichol doesn’t imply that I think there haven’t been explosive transformations in visual poetry since Nichol’s day and outside of his lineage. I do hope it implies that I’ve had some engagement with visual poetry prior to Geof’s piece, which was in question. But I better stress I don’t pretend to be an expert – see all my question marks – and I appreciate the various links and resources people have been kind enough to provide.
    Also, I think some of the examples I’ve given – the Benjamin, the Pater – aren’t “typically descriptive” even if they don’t literally (i.e. physically) blend with, and alter, the works they witness. Pater’s untypical description of Mona transforms Mona, even if only in the mind. It’s its own work of art, even if it isn’t spray-painted directly onto the painting’s canvas. In other words, exciting and artful criticism (not beleaguered by too many buzz-words) is possible even if it doesn’t take the form of, or merge with, its object.
    And yes, I did title my entry a review – a review of “Twelve Visual Poems” which includes, and is not preceded by, Geof’s commentary. I note your preference, but I spend most of my review on his commentary because my questions are mostly about criticism.

  • On January 29, 2009 at 10:53 pm nico vassilakis wrote:

    “There are things happening we don’t talk about. A dictionary haphazardly opened is a trick for letters to flee. Rising off the page into your eyes or into your nostrils or into your ears. These letters don’t sustain meaning. They are in flux and are better considered particulates of the larger WORD world. In this place though we are specifically concerned with these singular units that comprise what we know as alphabet.
    In this world letters are vulnerable and cant always stand on their own. Letters alone are typically unwanted things. They are in danger of being individual, of lacking community, of not forming into a word. Isolated.
    And the bits that flake off, that are shaved off, that simply give way – these letters collapse, they morph, they concoct a new purpose. The visual potential of each letter. Here is that poetry.”
    n


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 by Jason Guriel.