phabetical

By Nico Vassilakis b. 1963 Nico Vassilakis
Visual Poetry: Nico Vassilakis

Nico Vassilakis uses various processes to bring us to his visual poems. In “phabetical” he uses a toy microscope with a built-in video camera to capture highly magnified images of text, often with his hand moving the microscope across the page to capture still text in motion. As he has done here, Vassilakis sometimes modifies the settings on the camera so that the texts are captured in unnatural colors, and he sometimes reverses the polarity of these to further alter their materiality. In this poem, he has used a software process to band many slips of texts into columns and rows, and he has captured these blocks of text in motion so that we can see all of the middle column but only half of the two columns to either side of it. The result uses Greek letters (an homage to his ancestry) so abstracted that they appear before us almost as concrete images: birds, an arm reaching out, a child kicking a ball. He forces us to see not the common symbols of our alphabet but instead the “phabet”: the pictographs from which all alphabets arose.—Geof Huth

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Poet Nico Vassilakis b. 1963

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Visual Poetry

Biography

Artist, poet, and writer Nico Vassilakis was born in New York City. His visual and video poetry is composed of letters and phrase fragments that are swept or cut into shapes emphasizing their structural qualities and ephemeral nature. Referring to Vassilakis’s visual poetry as “less a work of grammar and words than an experiment with typography,” the Stranger critic Paul Constant observed how he “works at the words, shoving them . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Visual Poetry

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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