As attractive as Geof Huth’s selections are [“Twelve Visual Poems,” November 2008], any one of which would handsomely enhance the decor in an upscale dentist’s waiting room—none of them has anything essential in common with Herbert’s “Easter Wings” and its kin beyond a striking appearance.
Naturally, the visual qualities of a text can enhance, or even focus, a reader’s receptivity. But Herbert and his imitators, by shaping their poems in the forms of silhouettes on the page, did little or nothing to add layers of meaning to their texts aside from pointing to the cleverness of their creators. At bottom, these are traditional poems, and readers and critics approach them as such. They are not puzzles to decipher (except perhaps formally) or cryptograms without keys.
With perhaps the exception of Joel Lipman’s work, I cannot imagine anyone actually reading or reciting, much less attempting to memorize, whatever remains of human language in these “visual poems.”