Harriet

Categories

Follow Harriet on Twitter

About Harriet

Blogroll

I’ve decided to draw poems…

By Don Share

OhBlackWater_300.jpg
Jason Guriel recently took a keen-eyed look at the visual poetry we presented in the November 2008 issue of Poetry. One of our readers, Jerry Payne, in Clearwater, Florida, wrote in to say:
“Look, let’s call “visual poetry” what it really is—visual art. Some of us are in love with language and the way in which words—just words—can be put together in relationships that say something. Let’s not continue to water down the concept of poetry any more than it already has been.”
Well, I guess we’ve upped the ante in the February 2009 issue.


There you’ll find a portfolio of Tony Fitzpatrick’s poems, visual poems that I suggest are different in character from the ones discussed on Jason’s thread. Fitzpatrick is both a poet and visual artist, so he certainly knows the difference between one medium and another. In my little introduction to the feature, I quote him on the watery subject of poems as image, particularly in the context of this work constituting a response to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath; he says
“I’ve thought long and hard about how to make art about this holy place. I didn’t want to draw pictures of people trapped on rooftops, or struggling to stay above the water. The images from cable news seemed pornographic in their quest to wrap tragedy around the commercial breaks. So, for now, I’ve decided on words. . . . I’ve decided to draw poems.”
In one of his Harriet comments, Nico Vassilakis responds to Jason by protesting that
“In this world letters are vulnerable and can’t 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.”
I imagine Fitzpatrick would agree. In his work, letters – formed into and made out of images – are repurposed to make a place for the unwanted, lost, and forgotten who still speak to us. I wonder what those who weighed in about Geof Huth’s selection will make of these very different pieces.

Comments (45)

  • On February 2, 2009 at 2:51 pm Joseph Hutchison wrote:

    I think you’ve missed Jason’s point, but let me speak for myself instead of trying to speak for him. A poem may be a component in a word of visual art, but its being part of the artwork does not make it a poem. It’s a poem for reasons that have nothing to do with the art. In most cases, “visual poetry” is not poetry; as Jason says, it is visual art. Take Tony Fitzpatrick’s images for example. I like them a lot; the words in them enhance the art, and vice versa; but the words are not poems—at least not what I would call poems.
    Oh
    Black
    Water
    … is not a poem.
    Lost
    angel
    cuts
    razor
    men:
    thick
    as
    her
    heart
    … is not a poem.
    Claiming that Fitzpatrick’s images are “visual poems” is as absurd as saying that W. D. Snograss’s poem “Vuillard: ‘The Mother and Sister of the Artist’” is a painting. I’ve seen the poem presented with the painting beside it, and I supposed a clever Photoshop jockey could integrate the poem into the painting—but it would still not make the poem a painting. The combined artworks might make a third artwork, of course—but its nature would be a painting (or a let’s just say a graphic image), one that included words.
    I think Jason is suggesting that there is a value in maintaining distinctions, especially from the poet’s point of view. After all, a graphic artist can run around claiming to produce “visual poems,” but a poet can’t get gallery prices for writing “verbal paintings.”

  • On February 2, 2009 at 2:58 pm Don Share wrote:

    Thanks for this, Joseph. I take your point, and Jason’s, about maintaining distinctions, which we’re naturally free to do from our perspectives as readers; but what does it mean that Fitzpatrick himself calls these poems? For him, presumbably, there’s some value in blurring or washing away our distinctions. Not just on aesthetic grounds: as I say in the intro, when it comes to an unfathomable disaster like Katrina, ordinary modes of representation won’t work. In other words, a question is why a visual artist (though Fitzpatrick is also a published poet) would make certain claims about images as poems… Claims, I hasten to add, that can be taken seriously, at least for the sake of discussion…

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:17 pm Jason Guriel wrote:

    Don, thanks for your post, but just to clarify, I didn’t take much of a “critical…look at the visual poetry” that was in the November Poetry. And just to clarify, Joseph, I didn’t suggest that visual poetry is not poetry, though I appreciate your comment, and I’m open to being swayed by it. I merely took issue, in my post, with nothing more than the quality of Geof Huth’s critical prose, which borrowed too much, I felt, from academic jargon and cliched language, and which, to me, suggested some of the potential limitations of visual poetry. But my original post puts all of this much better.

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:20 pm nico vassilakis wrote:

    text from staReduction: People, I spent long stretches of time doing absolutely nothing It’s not that unusual to find someone in the midst of doing nothing I’m not sure how I’ll proceed, but I will proceed anyhow +++ It’s about being patient I think – waiting and not rushing Clearing the mind to let simplicity enter with nothing else to hinder you Drawing a blank – seeing a blank undone +++ Very shortly, from the last page, it will be entirely about staring – locked in place – held in focus Eyes have always been the brats – attention-getting toys securing their place in our very cognition – vispo, its very victim +++ Disengage and jettison the idea that the alphabet has to do with language – letters are memory and experience The periodic table of speech held up to light From childhood – letters – the first set of tools learned that are not physical and pure idea +++ Staring at letters reminds you that their visual substance is there to encompass entire human histories\ Letters are the source. One letter is a color of paint – talking is painting Each letter contains a history that is both personal and communal +++ Letters are the first recording devices. The first great invention to capture communication If you dissect a letter and stare at it further you come upon nature’s world – the bits, the parts, the shapes are a product of nature Talking is an acceleration of letters +++ So looking at a word the eye lands on a letter and it begins to stare back at you Staring into letters assures this response – eliminating the peripherals leaving just the markings and their associations Layers of logic recede and the elemental logic of the letter surfaces +++ A letter has no beginning and no end You stare for combinations that are pleasing. Letters are atoms and words are molecules, but the letter is the essence of your staring The keyboard is a house of letters +++ Stare your way into a word till the meaning of the word is gone then allow each letter to achieve its visual potential Burn the cohesive bonds between letters – the ones that formulate words – and you are freeing the letter Words make a prison for letters +++ So you’ve stared and liberated the letter – why is that important and where do we go from here Here To discorporate the letter further is to acquire its subatomic level placing it in danger of becoming purely visual +++ Alphabet is organized for communal usage. It is the rosetta stone for drawing, writing and thinking Other alphabets, besides the one in use here, are cumulative history arranged to convey the building blocks of human experience Vispo exists because it encapsulates the area of thought based on the alphabet that requires attention – the letter +++ Vispo is a byproduct of staring. Staring penetrates natural design. Design is a way to make associations between people and nature. Human nature seeks to make sense of larger nature. Vispo distinguishes the tree from the forest Staring transforms. Staring translates. Staring evolves. Staring compounds. Staring disrupts. Staring resolves. Staring removes the bullshit sheen of things +++ A moment to be blank, to be in synch, to be entranced, to be attentive, to be in tune with planetary and atomic realities simultaneously You realize looking is different from staring. You are disengaged from the saccades of looking. You are caught. You are mesmerized. Your sight and your thoughts join. One is not racing before or after the other +++ A sleepers stare awakens eyelids open for half a minute, half the hour what moves in through the eyes and out from the mind are the same, half of a day of peripheral viewing honed into half a week of serious focal points As someone completely dedicated to eliminating logic, to eliminating logic hinged to fabrication +++ Not so much obedient to staring vispo, but to be aware of it and so find myself attending to the presence of the singular letter – its intricacies, its implications to thought Deconstructs alphabet and so alters the message +++ One alphabet for you to stare at. A reproduction of this in other alphabets. Alphabets comprised entirely of vowels. Alphabets comprised entirely of consonants. Combinations attract us. The idea of creating sound of our staring attracts us further. Detach the ribbon round the alphabet. Retrieve the alphabet from the rivers of words around us Concrete is ancient vispo +++ Each state in the union – in the vispo union – is producing vispo – viable examples of vispo. But where’s the staring. But where’s the staring +++ It’s not that unusual to find someone in the midst of doing absolutely nothing +++ July 2nd – 12th 2008 New/ Jersey/York

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:22 pm john wrote:

    All writing is visual. All vocal production is “sound.”
    Language has no unmediated existence. It exists visually or aurally, or, in the case of Braille and tactile signing, tactilely. (Tactile Sign Language is used by deaf and blind people, such as Helen Keller.)
    The convention of our time is to present the past as if it were contiguous with the present, and that language is stable. It is not. Modern editions of Shakespeare pretend that he wrote in our language. He did not. Not only have meanings shifted and disappeared and appeared, but the pronunciation has changed as has the orthography.
    I don’t object to modern editions of Shakespeare; I rely on the footnotes; I appreciate the emendations of punctuation and occasionally of spelling — all of these things “normalize” his work and bring it closer to us — and that’s a good thing! But we shouldn’t forget that it’s not how Shakespeare conceived his stuff, it’s something different. It’s an adaptation — almost in the Darwinian sense of that word!
    Language always exists in a medium; there is no “pure” language analogous with the “pure” sound that composers such as John Cage have explored or “pure” color or form that painters such as — I dunno, Pollock? — have explored.
    And Shakespeare comes to mind as a good example. Robert Giroux’s book on the Sonnets prints a facsimile of the original (not approved by Shakespeare) edition at the end. And it’s a very foreign book to look at, after looking at, for example, the modern Signet edition.
    As it happens, Google digitized another reprint of the original edition of the Sonnets. In the context of these thoughts, it’s hilarious that Google has printed a digital watermark on every page, “Digitized by Google.” Imperious!
    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=Uw4WAAAAYAAJ&dq=shakespeare's+sonnets+original+edition&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=9bROGdofB6&sig=G4QMyB3TLZYNzB43P3cWaIRfhoU&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA35,M1
    I don’t mind that most poetry is very bland visually. But just because you pay no attention to fashion when you get dressed in the morning, it doesn’t mean that your clothes don’t make a fashion statement.
    Words are never naked.
    Go Vizpo Go!

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:25 pm Jason Guriel wrote:

    I’ll add, too – though again this is in my original post – that I enjoyed the visual poems in the November issue. I haven’t seen the new ones, but that’s because I live in Canada, and haven’t received the new issue, and prefer reading it in print form.

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:27 pm Don Share wrote:

    Hi, Jason! I didn’t mean “critical” as in… negative, but more as in criticism – recognizing that you were examining the claims Geof made by and for the works presented. Folks should indeed see the original post, which I linked above.
    I’m interested in these discusions of limitations and arguments that poems have to be made of language particularly; the next step on that slippery slope, if one slips, is naturally… what kind of language constitutes poetry… and on and on! And so I quite like the spirit of John’s comment. Though I’m a rigorist myself, I’m one who wants to see the envelope pushed. Do I contradict myself?

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:35 pm Don Share wrote:

    Oh, another thing. Joseph, it doesn’t seem fair to pull those phrases out of the context of the pieces. They were never presented as poems on their own. The question is what happens to words made up of printed text and embeded in the pieces as wholes, in context. The images, it goes without saying, allude to poetry: blackbirds… hope the thing with feathers… and much more. I wouldn’t underestimate Fitzpatrick when it comes to knowing things about poetry, the kind you read in books!

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:37 pm Jason Guriel wrote:

    Sorry, Don – I was thrown by the phrase “rather critical,” which sounded like “negative.” Still, for the record, my focus was less the poems themselves than Huth’s commentary.
    And great, after skating around you for several weeks, to finally encounter you on Harriet!

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm Don Share wrote:

    Good point, Jason and all. I changed it to… “keen-eyed”!
    I do think the commentary that went with the poems is really important to them & articulates the claim made for them…

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:54 pm Jason Guriel wrote:

    Thanks, Don. I also observed, in my original post, that the commentary was not entirely unsuccessful. It was clear enough. But I was after something else. But again, it’s all in the post.
    And I didn’t know you could revise posts! (So much for my concerns about the un-take-back-able quality of the blog post! I love it!)

  • On February 2, 2009 at 3:58 pm Don Share wrote:

    Let me shift focus here by comparing Nick Flynn’s recent poem relating to Katrina, which you can read by clicking here – and also Katie Ford’s book of poems on Katrina, reviewed, as it happens, here.
    Just words alone: can you compare them with the Fitzpatrick?

  • On February 2, 2009 at 4:41 pm Don Share wrote:

    P.S. As Michael Hofmann says in his manifesto: “All there is is confusion, pretense, contradiction, and instinct. Most of what proposes itself—or is hailed or dismissed—as poetry at any given time probably isn’t.”

  • On February 2, 2009 at 4:51 pm Mary Meriam wrote:

    Dear Harriet,
    The boxes on this thread are so wide that my screen (a pretty wide Apple screen) isn’t wide enough for the line lengths. I think John’s URL might have stretched out the boxes. Hope you can slim yourself down. Looking forward to reading you soon…..

  • On February 2, 2009 at 5:04 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    my question goes unanswered:
    how much DOES it cost to print these special inserts,
    these glossy color pages
    like the ones by Fitzpatrick in the new issue which arrived today with
    a “Year in Review” letter from Pres. Barr
    which says “this year’s economic collapse has afflicted everyone in the poetry community,”
    by which he must mean that the recent editorial decision to feature these colorful creations
    in the center of every issue is motivated by
    financial reasons—is that right? Is President Barr implying it’s CHEAPER to print these
    perfume ad-like inserts
    than it is to print normal-paper pages with real poems printed on them?
    So these “vizpoem” inserts are a cost-cutting device?
    Why don’t you just run inserts of real perfume ads? wouldn’t that help your budget?

  • On February 2, 2009 at 5:57 pm david krump wrote:

    Fitzpatrick’s work excites me.
    I see what you mean, Joseph, when you write:

    Oh
    Black
    Water
    … is not a poem”
    I’m willing to agree with this statement, but only so we can push this discussion along. The lines “Oh / Black / Water” probably account for less than two percent of the language in this poem. They are the largest of the words, sure, but there are many more words in this work.
    For example, the letter A, in the word “Water” contains what looks like “Heaven” and “Hunts” and “Peaches.”
    I don’t know about you, but heaven hunting peaches sure takes some of the pressure off my worries about damnation.
    If we’re going to look at this Fitzpatrick work (and the others), then it would be a shame if we limit ourselves to only the largest message.
    That would be like driving down the highway, and taking in only the words “LIVE NUDE WOMEN” while your passenger is confessing to murder.
    Well, maybe that’s extreme. But does it make sense?
    That the large words are foregrounded doesn’t excuse us from reading all the words, If we’re just going to consider the work’s language, then we must consider all its language.
    Just some thoughts.

  • On February 2, 2009 at 6:02 pm john wrote:

    Mary,
    Sorry about that URL!
    Can you scroll the screen from side to side? It’s a bother, but that’s how I have to read this thread too.
    Don,
    Thanks for linking to the beautiful poems by Mr. Fitzpatrick. The impact is cumulative and powerful. The visuals provide an emotional climate for the words, but the words carry the impact. The visuals give some of the emotional freight back to the exclamatory “Oh.” To that extent, the visuals translate the work of a dramatic actor onto the page. The visuals do a lot else too, and I wish they were bigger so I could make them out better!
    I have no objection to anybody saying they’re not poems. I experience them as hybrids too — poems / visual artworks.
    Michael Hofmann can have his snootiness. If someone wants to call something a poem, that’s fine with me.
    Labels shmabels.

  • On February 2, 2009 at 9:05 pm Don Share wrote:

    Hi, Bill,
    Though it costs a bit more to do those sections, it’s a lot less than you seem to think. We’ve done exactly two of them so far, and didn’t bust the bank, I’m happy to say. But I’m sorry to hear that you think these sections are somehow like “perfume ads.” They aren’t – though that’s no knock on magazines that do run ads to defray the expense of publishing their magazines. We don’t, at the moment. But come on. Why not just say you don’t like visual poems – and why?

  • On February 2, 2009 at 9:50 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    I’m afraid you’ve all got the cart before the horse. When I was a student at the School of Visual Arts in NYC back in 1969~71, one of the popular trends among the conceptual artists and the post-Abstract Expressionists was the use of words on canvas. It started with simple things like the word ‘red’ painted red, or blue blue. Then it expanded into lines about sunrise painted in yellow or gold. It got much more complicated from there, evolving into entire poems in many shapes and colors.
    Many poets have been painters, and many painters poets.
    The point is, you should study your Art History. This idea was around nearly forty years ago and the painters certainly trumped the ‘poets’ in this case.

  • On February 2, 2009 at 9:57 pm Don Share wrote:

    Indeed, Gary – I only had room in my intro to the portfolio to mention folks like Larry Rivers and Ed Ruscha, but you’re right.

  • On February 3, 2009 at 12:24 am john wrote:

    OK, art history.
    Wm. Blake. Great artists, but the poems and not the (gorgeous, astounding) visuals drive the illuminated books.
    As the text does in, you know, illuminated manuscripts of the medieval era.
    Who instigated the “Prose of the Trans-Siberian”? Cendrars or Delaunay? (I don’t know, but I’d bet Cendrars.)

  • On February 3, 2009 at 10:17 am Joseph Hutchison wrote:

    I just want to emphasize that in my original comment I acknowledged the existence of a combined work that contains both words and visual images, in which words are used as images, but because they are words, provide extra “meaning lift”. But the distinction between poetry and visual art remains: this third thing is visual art.
    As Bill Knott points out, visual art is privileged in the sense that it requires more money and produces more money than poetry. Take, for example, the ekphrastic event I was involved in last year at a Taos gallery. Several poets, several visual artists working from the poets’ poems; a luminous experience. But in the end the nicely framed poems vanished from the walls, while the visual art stayed up for sale, most at many hundreds of bucks a pop; a couple of them sold the very night of our reading.
    I have no ax to grind about visual artists; most of them starve as well as poets do. But let’s not pretend that what they do is even similar. Both the marketplace and Art History say it’s not.
    And Nicos, you’re certainly free to call visual art that incorporates words “vispo” and advocate staring as a transcendental activity, but that only makes my point: staring at a conventionally printed poem accomplishes nothing, because the poem is not visual art. It is a visual representation of sound, the sound of language in motion, and requires hearing rather than staring.
    Maybe that’s why poets don’t get paid to create it. We all chatter on, after all; we all make the noises. Why pay somebody for making noises the rest of us make for free?

  • On February 3, 2009 at 7:51 pm nico vassilakis wrote:

    a helpful historical overview regarding visual poetry.
    VISUAL POETRY: A Brief History of Ancestral Roots and Modern Traditions
    by Karl Kempton
    http://www.logolalia.com/minimalistconcretepoetry/archives/karl-kempton-visual-poetry-a-brief-introduction.pdf

  • On February 4, 2009 at 7:49 am Lynn Behrendt wrote:

    I don’t understand why some poets get outraged about what is and isn’t “real” poetry. And I’ve noticed that the people we call “visual artists” don’t really care about such distinctions very much. Why are poets so addicted to these distinctions? Why are they often so much more bound & gagged by their own definitions?
    To me, the fact that Vispo wanders into & around this murky in-between area is exactly why it’s so fascinating. I love those places where the arts cross over, and definitions become blurred. Often, that’s where one can find the most opportunity for something really radical to happen. It calls into question what our definitions are, & why we have them, & forces us to react & respond without an arsenal of closely-held overly-familiar interpretive tools. If nothing else, it’s fun to wander around in that murky area — why would some poets have such a kneejerk repulsion to doing that? I just want to say to these poets: RELAX—open your mind and eyes.
    p.s. I adore Tony Fitzpatrick’s work — so thanks, Poetry, for calling attention to it.

  • On February 4, 2009 at 1:26 pm troylloyd wrote:

    i want to thank Poetry for having the balls to have a Visual Poetry special — the comments here augment the sad fact that many readers confine themselves to a narrow notion of poetics as opposed to an expanded one.
    point well taken about the fine line between vispo & art proper, it is a fine line indeed — but the two have altogether differing distinctions: art is art & poetry is poetry.
    the Concrete poets predated the conceptual movement & actually contributed to the freeing framework of words being another artistic material, anyway, the Dadaists & Futurists were doing vispo right after the turn of the century — the “attention to materiality” inherent in the plasticity of written words has a long tradition in the histoical avant-garde, not to mention Eastern cultures who have been practicing a “poëzie fusie” as an integral aspect of how written language can be augmented to include differing operational aspects of the reader’s brain. i.e., Egyptian hieroglyphics circa 2700 B.C. , “…certain determinative marks relied upon visual relations to produce linguistic meaning…”
    i find it quite amusing that such arguments are still with us, that we cannot simply say that poetics exist in a state of liminality & the supposed boundaries that are set up around it are only feeble attempts to preserve a critical powergrid & angrily tries protect the canonic empire from collapsing the established system of control.
    here’s a few choice exceprts of Ezra letters to Harriet Monroe, & this is what i find amusing, the slowness of evolutionary outlook & the resistance to any poetic practice that cannot be cuddled away into the corner of criticality.
    1912:
    “…I may be myopic, but during my last tortured visit to America
    I found no writer and but one reviewer who had any worthy conception
    of poetry…”
    “…until someone is honest we get nothing clear. The good work is
    obscured, hidden in the bad…”
    “…as to getting a number that will please me; I think it is a
    possible feat, tho ‘ I’d probably have to choose the contents myself. When you
    do finally adopt my scale of criticism you will, yes, you actually
    will find a handful of very select readers who will be quite delighted, and
    the aegrum and tiercely accursed groveling vulgus will be too scared by
    the array of delightees to utter more than a very faint moan of
    protest…”
    1913:
    “…the unspeakable vulgo will I suppose hear of him after our deaths.
    In the meantime they whore after their Bennetts and their Galsworthys
    and their unspeakable canaille…”
    “…the gods do not care about lines of political geography. If there
    are poets in the U.S.???? Anyhow, they oughtn’t to be poisoned in infancy
    by being fed parochial standards…”
    “…I am willing to reconsider my resignation pending a general
    improvement of the magazine, and I will not have my name associated with it unless
    it does improve…”
    1915:
    “…scholarship is but a hand-maid to the arts. My propaganda for what
    some may consider “novelty in excess” is a necessity. There are plenty to
    defend the familiar kind of thing…”
    “…and there is no use implying that I lack reverence for great
    writers. My pantheon is considerable, and I do not admire until I have thought; that is to
    say I do not admire until I have tested. One has passing enthusiasms: one finds in time
    lasting enthusiasms…”
    “…dam ‘em…”
    “…my gawddd! this is a rotten number of Poetry. It is, honestly,
    pretty bad…”
    “… yes, the prizes were peculiarly filthy and disgusting, the ₤10 to
    H.D. being a sop to the bintelligent.However, I knew it would happen. I know just
    what your damn committee wants…”
    1916:
    “…the most hard-edged and intense of the Latin poets should not be
    cluttered with wedding-cake cupids and cliches like “dregs of pain”,etc.,etc.,
    ad. inf. Pink blue baby ribbon…”
    1917:
    “…but i wish I could really get you roused on the meaning of the
    American University and the menace of it…”
    1918:
    “…and Poetry has never printed anything that could bring the blush
    to the cheek of a deaf nun…”
    “…Poetry, with its intense, its almost oppressively respectable
    reputation for respectability…”
    1926:
    “…and that you tend to become more and more a tea party, all meres
    de famille, only one fallen woman among them (and ‘er with the sob of
    repentance)…”
    “…you might as well admit that trying as you may to be catholic, you
    miss being any kind of arena for combat; you get a general air of mildness…”

  • On February 4, 2009 at 3:05 pm Zachariah Wells wrote:

    What I don’t understand is why people assume that the questioning of terms is a “kneejerk” manifestation of “outrage.” Yes, I’ve seen the spluttering reactionary, too, but most of the people questioning or objecting to the terminology–here and elsewhere–seem a great deal more thoughtful than this stereotyped strawman. Most of the outrage seems to come from practitioners of vispo, who seem way more invested in calling what they do poetry than their putative enemies have in removing the label.
    Poets deal with words, which is why the misuse of a word might tickle their skeptic bone. How we frame a work of art affects our reception of it, and not always for the better. Calling Fitzpatrick’s collage–which looks to me much like other collage works not called poems–a piece of visual art, as Mr. Hutchison suggests, is a far more neutral way of framing it. By calling it a poem, more attention is drawn to the frame than to the art. Which doesn’t seem productive to me. I could care less if someone wants to call a work of vispo Poetry. Poetry, in the non-generic sense of the term, is a property inherent in things and is abjectly subjective. But I don’t think it’s useful to call that same work a poem.
    The thing, generically speaking, about a poem is that you can make any number of copies and it’s still the original poem. Change the ink, the paper, the font, the typeface, it’s still the poem. Copy it out with a Bic on a cocktail napkin, it’s still the poem. Take it off paper or a computer screen altogether and speak it, it’s still the poem. A poem on paper, I’ve long thought, is analogous to sheet music, sitting there waiting for someone to interpret it and give it aural shape beyond its two dimensions.
    Poetry’s reproductions of Fitzpatrick’s works, on the other hand, are not Fitzpatrick’s works. They’re reproductions, and something significant is lost in the transfer. (I assume, never having seen the originals.) They can’t be copied by hand, they can’t be held faithfully in memory (except by eidetics), they can’t be spoken. Even more significance would be lost if you used different materials to reconstruct “Oh Black Water.” Sounds like visual art to me.
    Colour me outraged…

  • On February 4, 2009 at 4:04 pm troylloyd wrote:

    Lo, the hundredletter thunderword tentimes yunder yonder roarrumble echo to echo on cloud to ground and as air under dreamwings, flown of phloem same as same as soundsense via earwitness nevertheless past postpropheticals still breathing heavyhot in this lattermost daily of rapid agings – suchwrit old as 1912 in transrational zaum seeking to cleanse semiotics of common sense (& yet seeking),”We order that the poets’ rights be revered: To enlarge the scope of the poet’s vocabulary with arbitrary and derivative words (Word-novelty)…To stand on the rock of the word “we” amidst the sea of boos and outrage…And if for the time being the filthy stigmas of your “common sense” and “good taste” are still present in our lines, these same lines for the first time already glimmer with the Summer Lightning of the New Coming Beauty of the Self-sufficient (self-centered) Word.” ¡Viva Velimir Khlebnikov! ¡Viva Пощёчина общественному вкусу! кроиться миру в черепе ! из черепа! из черепа! из черепа! из черепа! из черепа! из черепа! из черепа! из черепа! из черепа! из черепа!
    The cognitive element of processing semiotic/visual hybrids is an inherent advantage to vispo – the immediate stimulation & activation of the brains different centers of perceptual software begin competing for meaningful values, one linguistic & one visuospatial. Once one comes to embrace these complexities (even in something as seemingly simple as ‘lighght’ ), the rich reward of lookreading provides the thinking mind with much adventure, like a skulltop lightning strike. I pity those who shouldershrug vispo and don’t even attempt to ‘get it’, perhaps the neural interference from the info-processing overloads their circuit to a short & thus for them the vispo becomes completely meaningless – however, this is becoming less of a concern since within our post-info modernity we’ve already witnessed fairly rapid visuolinguistic evolutions and I suspect these modifications will continue.
    Because human lives are not lived in isolation, the conception of human agency also includes collective agency. People work together on shared beliefs about their capabilities and common aspirations to better their shared world. This conceptual extension makes the theory applicable to human adaptation and change in collectivistically-oriented societies as well as individualistically-oriented ones.
    Humans possess an extraordinary capacity to symbolize. By drawing on their symbolic capabilities, they can extract meaning from their environment, construct guides for action, solve problems cognitively, support forethoughtful courses of action, gain new knowledge by reflective thought, and communicate with others at any distance in time and space.
    Language is considered an embodied system whereby bodily gestures become ritualized and conventionalized into an accepted communication system. Given that our ancestors were tree-dwelling primates, our hands are well adapted to create four-dimensional space-time representations of the four-dimensional world. This ability was especially amenable to exploitation once our hominin forebears became bipedal and gained additional freedom of hand movement. With conventionalization, gestures become simplified and may lose their iconic aspect, but they are readily maintained through cultural transmission.
    In this view, speech itself is a gestural system, composed of movements of the lips, velum and larynx, and the blade, body and root of the tongue. This is consistent with the so-called “motor theory of speech perception” developed at the Haskins Laboratories (a private research institute in New Haven, Connecticut) during the 1960s, which holds that the perception of speech is not so much an acoustic phenomenon as the recovery, through sound, of speech gestures. The arbitrary nature of speech sounds is not a fundamental property of language but is rather the consequence of the medium through which the gestures are expressed. The authors aptly quote the linguist Charles Hockett: “When a representation of some four-dimensional hunk of life has to be compressed into the single dimension of speech, most iconicity is necessarily squeezed out.” The concentration on speech may have created a myopic view of what language is really all about.
    “Language is a skin. I rub my language against the other. It is if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. ” -Roland Barthes
    It is obvious that we have two eyes but perceive a single picture of our surroundings. Also, people with one eye do not perceive a different picture. When we fixate on a nearby object, the optic axes of the two eyes converge to intersect near the object, and this convergence is greater, the closer the object. These facts led to no contradictions when viewed in the light of early theories of vision, where vision was essentially touch, and naturally the eyes touched the same object, so there was only one impression of a unitary reality.
    In the theory of Aguilonius, that points in the retinas were in one-to-one correspondence, and single vision occurred when the two images on the retina were located in corresponding locations. The convergence of the optic axes defined a point, and a line through this point parallel to the line joining the eyes was called the horopter (the “see-image”). Points in a plane containing the horopter and perpendicular to the plane of the eyes were seen singly, other points not. The sense of depth was provided by the convergence of the optic axes.
    The stereoscopic ability is not present at birth, since the visual system does not yet register objects at that time. Recent research shows that objects are not recognized before the 7th month of life. After that, the ability may begin to develop, but it may not be perfected for several years. It seems that the visual centers in the brain communicate through the corpus callosum, the thick cord connecting the hemispheres, but information from both eyes goes to the centers in each hemisphere. It would be interesting to know if one or the other connection was the essential one in stereopsis, or that they both play a role.
    The importance of vision in humans (and in other primates, as well) can be deduced from the fact that the large space in cerebral cortex is devoted to vision. More than one third of all cortex is included in processing and elaboration of visual information: primary and secondary areas in occipital region, higher visual zones in inferotemporal and parietal lobes, associative centers in frontal lobe and many diffuse regia in non-dominant (mainly right) cerebral hemisphere.
    To see and to speak are different in many elements. They are different in the format of information packing and information processing. The visual information is given spatially, analogously and holistically (spatial field topology preserved) and processed parallel and immediately (all at once). Linguistic (verbal) information is temporal, digital and discrete, and it is processed serially and subsequently (sign by sign). Visual information processing is automatic and natural (non-intelligent), whereas the linguistic information processing requires intelligence. Intelligence is necessary for language acquisition. Without intelligence we could not understand the meaning of words and use syntax rules (how to organize the words into the meaningful messages). In addition, language in its both variant, spoken and written, has strong social, cultural and historical dimension. Thanks to its inner structure the language is highly economic, flexible and productive (a few tens of basic phonemes + combinatory rules = infinite number of messages). In this case, vision is less productive and flexible because it is constrained by concrete object distribution. However, vision (or visual description) of any particular object is more economic and more precise than the verbal description of the same object. It is much easier and more accurate to know how an object exactly appears if we simply look at them, rather than using even a highly scrutinized and detailed verbal description.
    Vision and language are not completely distinct. They are overlapping so that there are some linguistic elements in vision and visual elements in language. Linguistic, i.e. symbolic elements in vision can be noticed in the following phenomena: visual signs and visual communication (e. g. language of deaf persons, traffic signs etc.), visual intelligence (e. g. many tests of intelligence include visual perception tasks), visual thinking and imagination (e. g. spatial concepts, visualization of objects etc.), symbolism of dreams etc. Sequentionality of vision can be found in two groups of phenomena, eye movements and information processing within the visual system.
    Recordings of eye movements show that the image of objects is constructed part by part (fixation point of eyes practically jumps across the surface of object). Modern visual science shows that visual perception of the object has a temporal dimension. The retinal image (retinal image = mosaic of excitation of photoreceptors in eye) is processed holistically and parallel, but it passes through several stages within the visual system (parallel processing + sequentional elaboration) So, during the given period of time, the perceptual image of external objects becomes more and more articulated, precise and rich.
    All visual phenomena can be classified in two large groups, visual perception and visual cognition. Visual perception is the detection of present scenes, objects and events. Visual cognition is mental manipulation (“mentipulation”) of absent contents. It encompasses the different processes and capabilities. Imagery or visualization, that is, creating mental images or mental representations of absent or unreal objects and events. Visual memory, that is, storing and organizing mental representations and filling the missing details. Visual intelligence, that is, capacity for manipulation of visual contents (mental rotation, labyrinth test, camouflage tests etc). Visual intuition and knowledge, that is, understanding the meaning of pictures, iconic symbols etc. Dreams, that is, symbolic combinations of mental images and creating the unconscious messages.
    Ecological approach states that the amodal completion is not a good paradigm for the study of perception. In natural conditions, a perceptual system is not forced to complete anything, but it selects invariants from the rich informational pool. In the standard experiments with 2-D patterns of contours, some extra-perceptual mechanisms are prevailing, such as reading the pictorial depth cues. However, the amodal contours are perceptually strong and relatively stable which indicates that it is not correct to classify them in the category of pictorial or iconic signs.
    For Cognitivist approach, the capability for reading the cues (cue = sensory symbol) imply some fundamental intelligence. According to this, amodal completion can be taken as a good example for perceptual hypothesis testing (what is the most likely meaning of ambiguous 2-D sensory data). The pan-logism of this approach is double because it claims that the perception is intrinsically intelligible, and that it is under the strong control of higher cognitive instances (so-called top-down processing). However, this approach fails to explain many cases when the effect of prior experience, knowledge and logic are more than weak.
    Connectionists are interested to find out how the visual system works by itself, i. e. irrespectively of memory influences (knowledge reduced), and in the conditions of reduced input complexity. According to this approach, the perceptual system integrates sensory primitives tending to reach the optimal (most economic) solution.However, sometimes is not quite clear which perceptual description is most economic, because in some cases the ambiguous (multistable) primitive patterns can be completed in at least two equally economic ways (e. g. simple and regular outputs).
    The Roman poet Virgil observed that “they are able who think they are able.”
    “It often does more harm than good to force definitions on things we don’t
    understand. Besides, only in logic and mathematics do definitions ever
    capture concepts perfectly. The things we deal with in practical life are
    usually too complicated to be represented by neat, compact expressions.
    Especially when it comes to understanding minds, we still know so little
    that we can’t be sure our ideas about psychology are even aimed in the right
    directions. In any case, one must not mistake defining things for knowing
    what they are.”
    — Marvin Minsky, from The Society Of Mind, 1985

  • On February 4, 2009 at 5:42 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    i ripped out a couple of the fitzpatricks
    and rubbed them on my underarms,
    but they still stink—
    and the pits ain’t no sweeter either

  • On February 4, 2009 at 6:27 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    are those people above
    who are defending the inclusion of “viz” in your mag—
    are they SUBSCRIBERS? if they aren’t, then they have no right
    to comment on the contents of the mag—
    I am a subscriber—and the money I sent you was paid for poetry, not art—
    if I wanted art, i would have subscribed to ARTNEWS or Art in America etcet—
    I didn’t subscribe to your mag for art, but for poetry—
    the space you’ve wasted on these mediocre artworks should have been used for poetry,
    the poetry I paid for—
    I demand a refund.

  • On February 5, 2009 at 9:34 am troylloyd wrote:

    hey Bill,
    the perfume ad comment
    you use is a cheap shot,
    you’ve been around long enough
    to know that the advertising
    industry has swiped technique
    from the visual poetry/concrete
    practice — they swiped the
    technique because they know
    how effective a visuolinguistic
    approach stimulates a reader.
    you were included in the ’73 anthology
    “Breakthrough Fictioneers” — don’t you
    think that the open approach with that
    anthology was a step in the right direction?
    it was pubb’d by Something Else Press,
    one of visual poetries essential publishers,
    Dick Higgins has said:
    “It is difficult for me to imagine a serious person attacking any means of communication per se. Our real enemies are the ones who send us to die in pointless wars or to live lives which are reduced to drudgery, not the people who use other means of communication from those which we find most appropriate to the present situation. When these are attacked, a diversion has been established which only serves the interests of our real enemies. ”
    do you think Higgins’ idea of “intermedia”
    was offcourse? i think it was what we need,
    esp. here & now in post-info webworld.
    Artnews & Art in America do not publish
    visual poetry, because visual poetry ain’t art!
    i could designate yr collage of rejection letters
    as vispo, even tho they have no poetic content
    they indicate the pain of poetry & do so
    inna visuolinguistic manner.
    i buy Poetry at the newsstand, w/ a cover price
    of only $3.75, it’s like buying a cuppa coffee.
    i bought multiple copies of the Nov. ish to
    send to friends overseas & distribute amongst
    friends & family azza brief intro to vispo
    from a “legitimized” source.
    one may pay for poetry,
    but one may never own it.

  • On February 6, 2009 at 7:52 am Henry Gould wrote:

    Edwin Honig once told me that he decided to become a poet because all it took was a pencil and a piece of paper.
    I don’t have anything against vizpo or calling other things “poems”, by the way. (Honig was also a great doodler.)
    Art begins as a blank slate. You must make of it what you will.
    I myself will stick with the pencil & paper. Probably.

  • On February 7, 2009 at 7:05 pm david chirot wrote:

    Friends & Fellow Workers–
    this is from a leter to the Spidertangle list-
    prompted by one of Nico’s responses there to this piece and thred–which only just got a chance to check now–
    there is tons of new visual poetry from aournd the world i just put up at my two blogs today
    in reply to a Call of mine as well works sent from many visual poets who send all updates and news from their work and that of others–
    there are as well a great great many links included in a number of these latesest arrivals
    and visual poetry seen in a much large context than the one iin portry, though one understands to be sure space and financial limitations effect these
    a long interview with brilliant questions from Jared Schickling will be appearing in the near future in a new online journal–
    also a number of recent “Faites divers/fate’s divers” at my blogs comment on such things as slow poetry conceptual poetry flarf poetry and “mirrror mirroro n the wall/who is the most avant/of them all”—-
    http://davidbaptistechirot.blogspot.com
    http://cronacasouversivafeneon.blogspot.com
    happy valentines to all!–dbc
    Apologies that this is running behind the discussion–
    every time i think i will get someplace something happens–
    Thursday was the day the ringleader of the pumpkin people moved out and the lobby was filled with his followers–
    many hours passed as they existed in some other zone and the pumpkin efforts to carry things downstairs failed miserably
    like watching the Living Dead in Dawn of the Dead going up the escalators and keeling over at the top
    and between then and now a friend was shot and died in the hospital–
    The Harreitt blog noted by Nico bothered him as it seemed to sepearte “language and art”
    i’d say things are far worse than that–
    one might join say art and lanaguge
    but what about Visual Poetry and life anddeath
    and as life and etah matters–
    or as materials of Visual Poetry-in themselves living and dying, being Living Deads-
    or the Dead Living–or Pumpkin People–
    what might one do when al there is to converse with is an ancient rotting charred scarred telephone pole–
    no telephone
    just a pole
    a Hot Line to Nowhere–
    Zero Poem Poem Zero–
    and in the dust of ages blown abt by the weird winds of potholed streets
    why not use a crayon and paper to start rubBEing–
    with life and death as they are passing
    as one see
    ‘s and hears them in passing–
    having passed many times oneself the backwards and forwards of living dying the living deads and the deads living–
    ghosts of ancestors inside one walking among the foreign murdering language– languages not from here, but came to this place-killing and erasing away to make room for the settlers and settlements of this “language” and “art” of a separation accomplished with violence
    so then–
    how to find lost languages except in living them–dying with them–and returning among the living deads and pumpkin heads–
    the Living Dead and the Death of a Living Person–what might one make of and with these events and beings as “Visual Poetry–“–
    “from the Ground itself the voices and images come–to touch the ground and find touching back-hand to hand–no separation–not even in death–not even in life–hand in hand hand to hand–
    is Visual Poetry capable of a kind of “deep personal expression” of a world lived among these–and certainly–what hundreds of examples may not emerge as one thinks on it –memorial tributes of Flowers and fotos–lines of remembered sayings of the departed–or for the Living dead, their dance among dimensions–a slow motion waltz with dementia re orchestrated by pharmacologies of the industrial variety–
    might a telephone pole be a totem pole if one remade it so by “the works of one’s eyes and hands–imagination–memory–“–
    to be as El Spontaneo–that aspiring matador who jumps from the arena’s walls into the ring with the bull and steals some moments of danger and hopefully glory before being carted away to leave the final killing to the professionals–
    if one vaults enough times into the ring with the Minotaur–might not a labyrinthine Visual Poetry become Visible and within it the threads of Ariadne–a non-alphabetically based Poetry of lines and directions–colors, forms, sounds, noise, musical outbursts, the aromas of women colognes of men and smells of wine and spicy foods–creating “a way out of the nightmare”–
    to confront death and life both–the “Moment of Truth”–a blood spattered writing among the hoof incised sands–the footprints of men and the horseshoes of dilapidated and dying horses–
    or “an entrance into history–if not myth–”
    isn’t a Visual Poetry what one might be living in–and as–
    The Dead See Scrawls–
    i did get to think more in between and al around and under and over and through though re visual poetry critical literature–
    I think the examples such as Nico’s aren’t critical writing in the sense of essays or, basically, thinking re Visual poetry in a way that’s interesting to anyone outside a tiny coterie, which often seems to be the problem with such writing–“Visual Poetry” becomes something more obscure and elite and distanced and the provenance of “specialist’s” response either to the Visual piece it is elaborating an obfuscation of it as it were–than a writing which is going to make Visual Poetry something interesting nd alive to not simply other specialists but anyone–
    unless one believes art isn’t for just anyone–
    which in itself gives material enough for plenty of essays–
    why not have essays on basic questions which are alive and give one much to think on? for example, what are the changes –and non-changes, conform ties, reiterations of already overfamiliar tropes–going on in Visual Poetry with each new generation of technological it is involved with in terms of production, reception, distribution-
    what is the shift in the quality of the image when one uses digital, which has “holes” in it, compared to say the non digital image which does not–
    what are the changes in the kinds of colors and spaces available? and how does this affect the works–
    how does the computer affect the “clean” and dirty” distinctions–does it seem that things get more “clean” al the time?
    is cleanliness “next to Godliness”/ is it next to ethnic cleansing?
    has the influence of semiotics in Visual Poetry waned?
    why do American and Canadian Visual Poetry make very little use of Visual Poetry in terms of politics, political actions, questioning the world around them as it structured in images and words?
    why is there a clinging to, in order to appear “avant-garde” the “conventions” of previous and classified, academically recognized “avant-gardes” in order to “justify” Visual Poetry as “really and truly a branch of the arts worthy of academic study and funding”? isn’t that what the imitating of Gertrude Stein implies? a hundred year old “guaranteed” “authentically avant-garde” “look” and “language”–
    a critical writing doesn’t mean “reviews” of one or another kind or “responses in words to the pieces which already have words and images”–
    a critical writing to me at any rate means taking hold of some of the thinking that is IN the works and what they may suggest as further questions, thinking–
    for examples
    and these just the barest tip of the icebergm there are so many that spring to mind-one has to stop if one wants to get on with the day say or get back to work–or–
    typefaces, fonts–is one restricted to the standardized in terms of alphabets and their structures as froms?
    and if so why?
    does the computer digital spacing constrict the sense of movement within a piece? is there a difference between stillness and stiltedness in this form of fixing of the letter within a limited field of movements and spacings?
    and what of colors? can one attain a spontaneous mixing, a conglomeration of deluges of accidents out of which emerge things never before seen nor heard?–
    it is not to “compare and contrast” or say “this is better than that”–it is to understand what are the choices available in working, rather than saying, well–come on man–who bothers with al the mess of working by hand anymore ?–
    so nice so clean so efficient–isn’t that one wants–
    like the killing of humans by “unmanned drones”–
    what are the ranges of what Visual Poets have considered as indeed “letters” and “words”–is one limited to the “legible” and the literary” aspects of words and letters–
    isn’t color a voice?–a splattering a blotting a blurring a smudging are they not also forms of articulation of sounds and actions, dance–
    is the world as we see it turning into what one sees via photogrpahed videoed cinematized and computerized visuality?–
    is not a very great deal of what persons “see’ in the “signage” of a “street scene seen”–precisely that–what they are trained to see by photos and cameras cinematic and video–of computer enhanced gorgeous stunning digitalized dogs in front of the old fashioned fire station with some quaint old lettering as of Yore?–
    is every person becoming a tourist of their own daily life–equipped with those “quaint native markets” whereon might purchase souvenirs of one’s own existence as a sign that one “has become certifiably a member of one’s own tribe”–
    how have the new technologies affected the sense of sight as it is “appearing” in Visual Poems?–
    is one seeing “within the field of the page”–
    or within a different sense of the horizon , of perspective–
    Is Visual Poetry a historical in the sense that it mixes older forms of typographies or images with the contemporary in order to create a “mix”–which–has a meaning in the sense of Visual exploration of time in relation to the forms and changes in these due to the developments of different forms and tecnhonlogies of printing through time?
    or is just done as a matter of decoration?
    in what ways are Visual Poetries “interested in” the actual existing language of letters in time–that is, how they are affected by weathering, winds, rains, destructions bombings, burnings, censorships, “preferential treatments” and the like–just as letters one finds everyday al around one are–
    or is Visual Poetry more guided by a relatively static conception of lettering based on typefaces, standardized and “recognizable” and “clean” lettering–
    when one is making or reading/seeing/hearing a Visual Poem–is it imposed upon by a vision ahead of time of what Visual Poetry should conform to? or does one work the other way round in which the Poetry emerges fro the inter-collaborations of the worker ad the materials–as they are working together in an action in time–
    a time of immediacy, rather than say a time of “eternal” values imposed on top of the work–
    (“eternal” can mean the same thing as “recognizably avant-garde” etc–)
    Think of the ways in which Visual Poetry is a public language–or a private one–or a fossilized one for the curators to hang up and evaluate the “cultural value of”–
    Are Visual Poets more interested In “poetry” of language than of say paniting, drawing, carving, sculpting, spattering, spraying, rubBEing–
    What forms of arts might one find influencing various aspects of Visual Poetry? Are Visual Poets at al aware actions in the visual arts, or is it primarily, in the US say, more interested in being “related with language.”
    And why might this be? The Puritan heritage? An anti-image image?–That is, a “spirituality” without images, without “idolatry”?–Is there a fetishization of the Word, the Book?–
    What might be the historical development of this in relation not only to Visual Poetry internationally, but, for instance, in the US?–
    Are the “historical accounts or overviews” which are presented of Modern Visual poetry actually “historical” accounts, or instead to some more or less large degrees “narratives constructed for the benefits of the types of Visual Poetry preferred by this or that Authority”?
    One might examine the uses of letterings and words, numbers and colors, repetitive forms, the use of al manner of materials “close to hand” of Art Brut as being a source of inspiration for Visual Poetry–
    Does Visual Poetry have more of an interest in the written word or alphabet than in the pure sounding of forms which are not anchored to , chained to, letters, words–
    What part might sound play and beyond sounds–noise–music–random sounds of passers by, traffic, insects, garbage collectors at dawn–thunder–death rattles–explosions–
    In a Visual Poem, what aspects of a “narrative” might one find?–Might one create a movie within a minute, as it “happens al over the page”–a new form of “story telling”–
    Might one create an essay with visual Poetry itself–
    A Visual Poetry essay re Visual Poetry–
    Would a Visual Poet be able to talk about her or his works with just anybody sitting around or walking about? or does one think that it is necessary to have first some “sophistication” in order to really “grok the pieces before one’s very eyes–?”
    Is there a possibility in Visual Poetry of anything happening such as the “Newspeak” in Orwell’s 1984?
    In order to be considered “Visual Poetry”–what might be the criteria, the examples, the influences–?
    Is Rauschenberg or Basquiat in many works within or not the realms of “Visual Poetry”?
    The photographer Clarence John Laughlin, who was primarily an auto-didacte and created for himself a huge and eclectic library –and was inspired greatly when young especially by Baudelaire and the French Symbolists–writes of one of his pieces that he is creating “Visual Poetry.”
    The French Cinema of the late 1920’s into the 1930’s–(and after WW2 in the films primarily of Cocteau)–essayed creating form of Cinema Poetique–
    In Eisenstein’s writings of the same period he makes use of analogies with the “Chinese written character as a medium for poetry-cinema” in the manner a bit of Pound/Fenollosa, an ideogrammatic conception of montage. From the beginnings of photography there are examples incredibly varied of the idea of the “pen of light writing” on the surface of the negative–or, of the camera has it becomes evermore mobile and swifter in the time taken to “take” a picture–of te camera itself becoming called a “pen, a stylus” and its actions within the world a for of writing,of poetry–
    In Dziga Vertov’s Kino Eye and Man with a Movie Camera –the images are obsessed with the signs and acronyms of the new Soviet world–the agit-props trains–the influence of the Visual Poetry of the Russian Futurists and Constructivists on the creation of new forms of language-environments in order to “bring socialism to the people.”
    Even Goebbels writes in terms of a crude conception of Visual Poetry in developing his theory of how propaganda imagery moves from slogans plus images to every few word sand ever larger images until one finally needs only a wordless image “that says everything all at once.”
    (more interruptions so better just send this my apologiesif repetitious-
    my point might really be one is always ever at the begining with these things
    and a thousand essays easily to begin with wd lead to ver manymore
    let alone works –
    and —
    again–
    in the end when suddenly THERE/HERE
    one is stil faced with a telphone pole to nowhere–
    being what one is –of necessity conversing with
    and–
    in this place no harriet or spidertangle is much likely to peep–
    to be Hidden In Plain Site-Sight-Cite!!
    is where on may find visual poetries emerging–
    (this is from a previous attempt–)
    I started this yesterday, but things here can quickly spiral off into so many strange and different worlds the next thing you know it feels like three years later over night.
    With writing re Visual Poetry i think to some extent it depends on who one thinks one is writing for. Years and years now of working outdoors and being asked questions or to explain myself to police or property owners, as well as showing works and talking about them in all kinds of environments, mainly “non-art/non-poetry” ones like jails, drug programs, community centers etc–as well as the nature of my materials and works, is an excellent ever ongoing way to develop some basic points to think of and also leave plenty of space for improvisation as without it God knows one might begin to congeal into a statue as rigid as some of the writings re Visual Poetry can be.
    In a way it helped that I didn’t have any precedents I knew of to work from, (other than once when little seeing women from the Historical Society making gravestone rubbings to preserve the ancient village’s history before the stones were no longer legible–which was coming on soon, too–)
    so had to learn as I went along–which means working al the time anywhere and no matter the obstacles or limitations of a situation. It was quite some time of working away stubbornly before anything began to suddenly almost overnight with notice cross the borders and live, have life, and after that, one had to work even harder because this means there is more to learn than one has time left to live.
    Some writings re Visual Poetry to me from this point of view emphasize an “impenetrability” or “stereotypically deliberate over intellectualizing of or evasion of presentation.” Writing in this manner serves to make more distant from the viewer/reader what might already seem pretty far away to them in the first place. Even among the so called educated and academic persons suddenly jumping aboard the Train of Trends’ most likely temporary exploitative interest in “vizpo” (meaning their own clique members dabble in it and can be added to the lists of “vizpoets” and thus make it part of “their” realms)–even among these characters one realizes that the writings re Visual Poetry serve them not, as for the most part, outside of one or two “rubber stamped” persons, they ignore the writings of Visual Poets, preferring their own jargon to further obfuscate and authorize ownership of Occupied territories so to speak.
    This is not the case with many of the actual historians of Visual Poetry like Gerald Janecek, Clemente Padin, Philadelpho Menzes and the extensive series re Spanish Visual Poetry which have been featured at Boek861 web site, as they are having a huge new series of both anthologies and issues, volumes devoted to single poets coming out.
    Bob Cobbing did an Anthology which is really brilliant, on the Influence of the Machine in English Visual Poetry. For persons who know very little about Visual Poetry, including the great number of the Trendies from the aco-worlds of the last fifteen years or so, the most necessary and the most interesting–and entertaining, too, as they are “stories”–and the most useful information is regarding the historical aspects and the methods, machines, materials which Visual Poetry has made use of in “Modern Times” and further back into the dawns of Cave Art and Petroglyphs –depending on one’s ideas and tastes.
    For example, since a teenager it has meant alot to know that the Russian Futurists and an artist like Schwitters and many Dadas worked in times and places of material scarcities and political uncertainties, uncertainties, in Russia, even in regard to the alphabet, and that these provided challenges leading to the uses of all kinds of “non-art” materials and hand writing or cheap tabloid typogrpahies, which also indicates that the Visual Poetry is directly linked with is a part of and not apart from the daily life it is in. Just knowing that little bit of information and examples obviously has been with me through al my work, because it demonstrates indeed that “Necessity is the Motherfuckerof Invention.”
    If you are hoping to light a fire of interest and excitement in the persons passing by who stop and ask questions or threaten to arrest you without a good spiel, this kind of bringing it down to the “raw butt ass naked reality” level definitely helps, because it is work anyone can do, without esoteric knowledge or materials or access to to studios, computers, video or still cameras, etc etc etc.
    For example, one looks at a Visual Poem and then reads some piece of writing , as Nico suggest, done in a “obviously ‘avant-garde’ style” as one knows these from a hundred years of examples, and–it immediately distances the work and places it off in a realm that can make a reader of any kind kind feel oh no, I’ll NEVER get this stuff! You gotta have a degree just to understand a few words! It’s perhaps impressive to persons “well versed in the tropes of Modernity” because it is known to them, and so creates no surprise that may disturb the placid running streams of the currents of “avantism.”
    On the other hand, if one begins to make things simple, which they actually really are, simple to begin with, the building blocks so to speak–ideas become real–as they exist in things, and in turn things fired by imagination. Not “material language” but the “materials of language” and a “language of materials”–such as wood grains, dirt smears, oil spills runoffs in dust, spray paints mottled with nail polish and Halloween paints found in dumspetrs, or any kinds of letters and Numbers and froms found on metal, plastic, glass, bricks, rubber tires, cartridge casings, license plates, shoe logos, medicine bottle caps, you name it–buttons, elevator buttons, bathroom fixtures, everywhere one looks there is something one can work with that is a material with language on it or in it and it may be whole prhase, it may be smashed up, it maybe worn down, it may somewhat moss covered or rusted away or obscured by layering’s of paint in attempts to obliterate it, yet in al these ways of existing it is there, living through time.
    More and more “vizpo” is done via computers and so one assumes the Future lies in that direction. Already one can see what this Future holds in store for the creation of Hells on Earth –Gaza–where no electricity is allowed and people die from hospitals having no power, where there are no Media of any kind letting a peep out of there most of the time as a people vanishes inside a prison, the same method used in Rwanda, when al the power and electric lines were severed just prior to the killings. Inn Milwaukee, last year a third of the students in schools had either no electricity and heat or no heat and electricity. Many schools and libraries had cut backs and limitations of time on the computers still available in the places still standing where they are located. The Virtual world is one of huge gaps between peoples, some of them violently imposed, including by massive bombings of power grids, some of the economically imposed,and some of them when a huge storm just comes along and knocks out power to tens of thousands of persons. The We and the “Disinformation Highway” are not at al “free” as one pays a bill to be riding on them–yes?–Yes.
    (this was another essay at “thius”–)
    a lot of time when i write or asked to talk about something re visual poetry i figure a lot of people wont know much about it, so one begins from the beginning in a sense to take care of a few basics–
    i think in this way i am influenced a lot by working outdoors so much, where i end talking to all sorts of point out some of the historically developed languages within that used by this particular person in this piece at this time that one is writing re–
    not as descriptive but as providing a framework which gives language for one not having much of a clue a bit of an inkling of things to work with–
    by this i don’t mean big weighty IDEAS of the GREAT theoretical sorts etc
    but things like this–
    how visual poetry historical is always influenced by the appearance of new machines used in creating and printing notations on the page–
    the pattern poems that first came into being with the printing press–
    and in the 17th–19th centuries introduction of more complex types allowing for uses of the rebus and other visual poetry forms, and more complex methods of spacing words and letterings on the page–
    which begin to get ever more rapid developments via newspapers presses being speed ed up and the invention of the typewriter, the telephone the telegraph and so–modern visual poetry with Mallarme, the Italian futurists, the Russian futurists use of handwritten works on craps of “useless” machine made products–Dada use of newspaper —
    the rise of typewriter poems–
    leading to concrete poetry in good part–
    (already lagging well behind Schwitters’ who in 1919/20 is saying to treat letters like colors and forms–as objects and colors, sounds, to move around in the compositional arrangements–not having a linguistic association per se e that is immediately codified, but one that is stripped down and dissociated so it reactivates its possibilities–)
    (Raoul Hausmann also developed a form of Lettriste poetry at this time, avant la lettre so to speak–)
    the copier machine
    the mimeo revolution
    the xerox machines
    the computers
    etc
    each step of the way technology’s a immediate element in the creation of new ways of making visual poetry–
    which also means such things as types of paper that can be used are changed and the introduction of cheaper and cheaper industrial paints, inks, etc–
    with copier art from bob cobbing comes the visual poetry without use of letters at all–
    extensions of what one hears sees touches–of oned’s reading and what one is writing–
    and perhaps one learns writing first before reading–
    which is what i had to do with rubBEings and the sorts of clay impressions paintings i do because there just aren’t any precedents hardly to draw on one has to find as one goes along–
    so one is learning the writing before learning reading n a sense–
    there are so many simple things on may indicate–
    with absolutely no need of description-
    what i mean are that in the simple practical things are the bases of the thinking of what visual poetry is
    Paul Celan wrote that “Poetry no longer imposes itself, it exposes itself.”
    Sadly it usually is sstill imposed upon
    When talking days and night with Bob Cobbing and jw curry and Clemente Padin–often esp with Bob and jw–what we wd talk about is the kinds of paper used or what sorts of amachinesand aallkkinds of little details
    the way the pressure changes as the hand’s moving a crayon and how wind affects movements of paint and chalk on the surfaces-
    all sorts of things
    those are the basic building blocks and they help one a great deal –aare ofnbsp; huge uuse inlooking at any jother kinds ofof work–no matter what media is sued–
    for example one may feel vvery quicklywhat the eemphasis ofapiece is–a person’s drive in the piece–is –is there any sspontaneitythere-aany emotionaliinvolvement it is aallintellectually worked out aaheadof time-
    does one have to know what It is perhaps alluding to or playing with in order to understand it
    alll these very basic elements are worth far more than even such stuff as the Gertrude Stein sorts ofddescriptionswhich are shall we say already a very old overused methodology which is a kind of stereotype cliche in a particualr sense of “avant-garde”–
    where as
    what people perhaps not often enough think of is how an artist/poet thinks in terms of the thinking WITH MATERIALS
    the materials are alive and one thinks with them–
    think of your own work–are you not dependent any given piece on having such and such a tool or machine to use even if it is a penciland ruler–
    a partridge in a pear tree-
    you see right away these things play a part in the piece’s being or not alive
    what kinds of letterings did you choose
    and why
    is there in apiece a sense in the background of the piece or In the artist’s mind of something which is being worked through and with in relation to some older language within visual poetry perhaps
    some problem from the concrete poetry transferred into another mode
    and now being examined in a new light-
    even working for so long with just a lumber crayon you’d be amazed how many thousands bits of information one has accumulated & experienced in all manner of ways of using wind using slight drops of rain or working in a snow storm or how the cold effects the way the crayon being so much harder looks and than in summer softer and smudgier or–the dust blown in the winds across the paper as one eworks
    aand indoors the way the light is not the same so one does things at a different angle than one might oout of doors
    aand working by streetlamps by moon light or in complete darkness to train the hands to see and other ways in which to teach the eyes to feel with touch the grains and roughnesses of things and know if they are “good “for work or not
    does one hear sounds or voices or many languages different as one works–or sounds simply of ppassersby and traffic or winds or rains–or someone outside the window fighting or shooting or police coming–
    aand then–does one as one feels the hand move feel alive the dance of the forms–does one feels there Isa dance alive in these forms that one might dance this poem–
    have, share movements with it in performing it not just sounding It out but moving about in some unscripted way that is suggested in side the poem-
    what sort of materials did the artist use–street things machine made computer manipulated geometric tantric
    what range of colors or using simply blackand white
    and what might this say
    without having to ddescribe what might be the difference in choosing color or b and w suggest as one is listening and looking and dancing about with this piece of life here before one
    or–does It have any life–
    does it iinvite one in as WC Williams says in Spring and All–“to invite one in to read and see”–
    __,_._,___

  • On February 7, 2009 at 9:48 pm Geof Huth wrote:

    Don,
    I’ve decided to allow this conversation to grow (maybe fester) a bit before commenting.
    First of all, I am pleased to see poetry continuing its examination of visual poetry–especially glad to see you’ve found someone I’ve never heard of. Tony Fitzpatrick’s visual poems are quite magnificent, beautiful visually and simple but effective verbally (textually). I can admit, easily, willingly, that Fitzpatrick’s words don’t work that well on their own, but of course they are not meant to. A visual poem is of a piece: text and image, not two separate (or even separable) pieces. I think these work quite well, and I’m sure they look good in the magazine. I’ll pick up a copy of the issue soon so I have the paper to hold onto.
    Second, Jason Guriel continues to undermine his argument that he isn’t suggesting that visual poems weren’t acceptable to him. As he did in his original posting, here he claims that the weakness of my words “suggested some of the potential limitations of visual poetry.” A specious argument, for sure. Maybe I am simply incompetent or ignorant, but I can’t represent the entirety (and am not claiming to represent the pinnacle) of criticism of visual poetry. It is a specious argument to claim that bad criticism of a form of art means that the art itself might be bad.
    I’ll say what I always say, “Look.” Just look at the pieces, figure out how to read them, and decide if there’s some enjoyment there for you. If so, great. If not, fine.
    And I’ll say what I keep saying, “Visual poetry is not poetry.” At least not usually nowadays. Don’t worry about terminology. I guarantee that poetry itself will survive whether or not we call these little controversial creations of ours visual poems.
    For years, I’ve been drawing, sometimes only with pen and paper, poems, visual and otherwise. We dream that poetry is an oral art, but it is usually a textual one. And poetry is always the most visual of the written arts, always the one making the most use of how it looks. So live with it. Enjoy or don’t. And do not care if people agree with you or not. You just can’t win those fights.
    Pleased with “Poetry,” and wishing you well,
    I remain,
    Geof

  • On February 8, 2009 at 9:57 am Jason Guriel wrote:

    Geof, are you sure you want to commit to that phrase “for sure”? The key word in the words of mine you quote is “potential.” I find it odd that here, and elsewhere, advocates of visual poetry seem bent on proving that I don’t like the stuff, that my praise is backhanded (as if a secret, burning hatred of the stuff renders irrelevant my other, much larger questions). I don’t love the stuff, but I find it interesting – and found it interesting before your piece appeared.
    I recognize that you’re not the spokesperson for an entire poetry, but others seem to suggest it by the enthusiasm of their posts on your behalf. And as you write, “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.”
    But stop being so self-deprecatory. Your response appeared in Poetry, which positions you – whether you realized you had the job or not – in the role of ambassador. While a selection in a magazine is never going to be fully representative, I assume you picked the pieces you did because you felt very strongly about them, and, given the number of the venue’s subscribers, wanted to make the best possible case for visual poetry. I’m sure no one expected you to represent the whole of your art, but surely you felt the obligation to represent the best of it, including its criticism. On one of those counts, you did a good job – in the opinion of this subscriber.
    I don’t think it’s scandalous to wonder if certain works of art have potential limitations based on a critical text – if the critical text appears in as prominent a venue as Poetry, which gets a lot of smart readers, the sort who don’t want Visual Poetry 101 or Visual Poetry for Dummies but, rather, great writing that grabs them by the lapels and insists why the stuff for which it advocates is important. But yes, no one text can speak for an art. And I did ask for guidance and resources. And I will enjoy looking through them.
    Finally, I wish those who dislike visual poems didn’t object to them in a reactionary way that enables their advocates to claim for visual poems the label “controversial creations.” Visual poems really are not that controversial, and when addressed in cliched terms, they look like, to borrow my original words, “anachronistic curios,” which tend to be more pleasant than shocking. Those still shocked by visual poems ought to invest in a good volume of art history.

  • On February 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    *
    these Po-Viz insert centerfolds have taken up what, 30-40 pages?—
    so that’s 30-40 pages of print poetry you owe me
    and every other subscriber who entered into a good-faith agreement
    whereby we pay you money and in return you provide us poems—
    this is a contractual question, and nonsubscribers are not a party to
    the matter . . .
    their testimony in this court of opinion is irrelevant and prejudicial
    to the proceedings,
    and the fact that you are allowing them to participate is, I think,
    an act of bad faith . . .
    just because a bunch of freeloaders view your mag online does not
    negate your contractual obligation
    to us real subscribers, does it?
    *
    >>>
    And in fact I think that you should not allow nonsubscribers to post any comments on this site—

  • On February 8, 2009 at 4:20 pm nici vassilakis wrote:

    Mr Knott,
    i thought you were kidding at first, but maybe youre not
    fancy sense of ownership
    i dont believe vispo is going away
    maybe in a couple months
    POETRY might even print some more
    regards, n

  • On February 9, 2009 at 9:45 pm nico vassilakis wrote:

    geof wont say much about the extent of his focus on vispo publicly
    and shit why should he
    but incase yr pockets are empty he’s hardcore
    one tiny overview – of many out there
    http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~blc35/final/huth.html
    n

  • On June 30, 2009 at 10:07 am Ian Finch wrote:

    Bill, if you can tell us what a poem is, instead of defining it by what you think it is not, then I would love to know.

  • On June 30, 2009 at 10:47 am Ian Finch wrote:

    “The thing, generically speaking, about a poem is that you can make any number of copies and it’s still the original poem. Change the ink, the paper, the font, the typeface, it’s still the poem. Copy it out with a Bic on a cocktail napkin, it’s still the poem. Take it off paper or a computer screen altogether and speak it, it’s still the poem. A poem on paper, I’ve long thought, is analogous to sheet music, sitting there waiting for someone to interpret it and give it aural shape beyond its two dimensions.”

    All one has to do is look at the Collected Poems of E.E. Cummings to know that this claim is false, a writer i think everyone would agree is a “poet,” even if he was also a painter. Not only does printing Cummings’ poems in the typewriter font hint at his writing process, his use of line breaks, spacing, punctuation, capitalization (etc.) distinguish his work and are crucial to understanding his meaning. I find it hard to argue that his work is best experienced aurally instead of visually.

  • On August 16, 2009 at 4:31 pm Bob Grumman wrote:

    I missed out on this discussion till now. I fear I’m incompetent at navigating this blog, but finally got here with a search. Don’t see that I missed much.

    I have a few scattered things to say:

    (1) If visual poetry is not necessarily poetry, why call it “poetry?”

    (2) Colorful collages that have one or more words in them are not visual poems unless the words and graphics do more than decorate each other. Or, what good is a term that can be used to describe just about anything whatever, as my friend Geof wants “visual poetry” to?

    (3) Reading does not use the eyes enough to be a visual operation; it is an intellectual operation.

    (4) How dare Poetry publish material that Bill Knott doesn’t like, or allow comments from anyone but Poetry subscribers–i.e., persons 90% sure to be incapable of liking any poetry that uses techniques not in wide use fifty or more years ago?

    (5) I discuss the gallery of visio-textual art, some of it definitely not visual poetry, in my Small Press Review column of May/June 2009. A copy of it is at
    http://comprepoetica.com/newblog/SPR/text0093.html.

    (6) In my most recent Small Press Review column, I discuss the visual poem by Scott Helmes that was in the gallery, and the value of asemic text in visual art.
    http://comprepoetica.com/newblog/SPR/text0093.html should get you to a copy of that column. If not, go to
    http://www.geocities.com/comprepoetica/spr-stuff/index.html, then click on “July/August2009.” Clicking on “May/June2009″ will get you to my other column on the gallery if the URL given above does not.

    (7) Subscribers to and editors of Poetry should avoid these columns; they won’t understand them.

    –Bob Grumman

  • On August 16, 2009 at 4:42 pm Don Share wrote:

    I’ll avoid these columns, as instructed by you, Bob – good to see you back here, though!

  • On August 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm Bob Grumman wrote:

    Dang, Don, I blew it: I thought you’d be like me and go read it to prove you could!

    –Bob

  • On August 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm Bob Grumman wrote:

    I blew it again: I should have said that I thought you’d be like me and go read them, then prove you understood it by demolishing them.

    –Bob

  • On August 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm Don Share wrote:

    Wouldn’t dream of such a thing, not being very good at demolishment!

    (Speaking of the last time you were here… Remember how you compared us to the Chicago Tribune, which you said at least ran comic strips? Well, we ran some comics by Gary Sullivan in the July/August issue of Poetry; and not only that: in September issue we’ve got a piece by Mary Schmich of the Trib in which she describes her work writing the Brenda Starr comic strip. Brenda, as you may remember, “quotes poetry and muses on it. Heroes and villains alike use it to woo her..” But I digress. Hope someone will report back on your links, for which many thanks.)

  • On August 18, 2009 at 9:04 pm Bob Grumman wrote:

    Chee, I didn’t know Brenda was still alive! I think, however, that you have me confused with some other wag, for I’ve never read the Chicago Trib. I do remember that I insulted your magazine. As for my links, Bill Knotts has used them 27 times, but hardly anyone else has so far used them even once. No replies except from one poet whose work I wrote about–a favorable one!

    Incidentally, has Poetry done much for haiku? I know you’ve published it, but I don’t think you’ve published much of it. I’ve long thought haiku, conventional American/Canadian haiku, has failed as much to get the recognition it merits as American/Canadian visual poetry. Now that you’ve done something for the latter, and earlier for language poetry, I wondered whether you might consider a feature on haiku. I’d recommend Charles Trumbull to guest edit it (although he has little sympathy for the kind of haiku I favor). He’s the editor of Modern Haiku, which is to mainstream haiku in North America about what Poetry is to mainstream poetry in North America.


Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, February 2nd, 2009 by Don Share.