Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Mark Soifer
Dear Editor,

I was interested in your November portfolio of visual poetry. I believe that visual poetry began with the invention of the printing press. Writers were challenged to work within the confines of what the press would allow, just as today they are challenged to work within the confines of the computer. That is really the fun and difficulty of concrete poetry—to overcome the restrictions of the machine and make the poem look like the thing you are writing about.

The combination can be extraordinary, but the examples in the magazine are what I would call “word art.” As examples of art, some are striking. As examples of visual poetry, they are weak. They subjugate the words to the artwork. There is little or no poetic challenge or visual discipline.

Most importantly, I believe the greatest shortcoming of the visual poems is the lack of sound or music. They are soundless. Visuals, yes. Music, no.

Vineland, New Jersey

Originally Published: February 27, 2009

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This prose originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2009

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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