Monday, November 3, 2008

Visual Poetry II

As promised, here are the images from Eleni Sikelianos's poem, "Experiments with Minutes." Notice again how creation of the images spur the text, rather than the other way around. (Apologies for the quality of the pictures; I'm a poet, not a photographer.)

At Matt's suggestion, I delved into this month's issue of Poetry Magazine, and wow! I was overwhelmed by the variety and ingenuity of the visual poetry in this issue. Geof Huth's commentary on the works is fun and enlightening, too. He has written a longer article available online, too, at

I'd love to talk about each poem, but for the sake of focusing, I'm going to choose Joel Lipman's excerpt from "Origins of Poetry" (to view the poem see What appeals to me about this poem is the overlapping and interaction between the two texts: the "found" text of the old science book and Lipman's rubber stamp composition. Layering in this way mimics the way in which we are always composing on a palimpsest, one that is never completely erased. Each voice is merely a part in the chorus, and yet, Lipman's lines are clearly the soloist of this piece. Other graphic features-- squiggles, red dots-- also call attention to the artifice, which helps guide the reader's attention. The harmony parts, though, are still audible, and the sheer fun of writing a poem with a title as grandiose as "Origins of Poetry" on a tract about magnetism and electricity makes unimaginable connections possible. Perhaps the origins of poetry are as fundamental as the laws of magnetism. In this way, Lipman's poem aligns itself with the others in this issue: each one questions the origins, and in the process, the limits of language and poetry. A worthy experiment, whether you call it science or linguistics or art or all of the above.

Thanks to Matt for the tip! -- Jill

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