As a project to occupy me, I decided to use each section in a multi-sectioned poem I wrote as inspiration to make a monoprint, then I figured I’d write the poem section on each print.
But my writing is terrible, some of the sections were really long which meant I’d get impatient with writing them out and inevitably make a mistake (would that be interesting, the cross-outs?), the ink obscured too many words (did I want them obscured? Would that be interesting?) so I decided to just write a fragment of the poem on each print.
I’m happy with the prints but the words disappoint me. Wasn’t it enough that the poem inspiration was in the DNA of the visual piece? Or is it my poem? Is it the fragments I chose? Is it that words and text have, to my mind, a problematic relationship — reminiscent as they can be of sentimental cards or cartoons? What am I looking for in this pairing? Should I have left visual enough alone?
I took a dive into what other people were up to with visual poetics. For example, I found an issue of Indianapolis Review that was devoted to visual poetics, plus some other journals like crtl+v often have visual poems of some sort, and Tupelo Quarterly which often has interesting work of various sorts. I was looking for examples that really gave me a zing, the sense of “yes, THIS is what it can be.”
I found lots of fun stuff, but I’m not sure I have yet found what I’m looking for. There’s a lot of collage with ransom-note style pasted-on lines of text. Often the text is brief, aphoristic, or enigmatic, which is okay, I guess, but not greatly of interest to me. Some people are using full poems, which I appreciated. But then I have to ask what the visuals do for the poem — is there something expressed in the comparison/contrast? Or is it just fun? And after I while I got tired of the ransom-note look and crazy juxtaposition of images ripped out of magazines or old textbooks. There’s a lot of it going on. Often the text and what it conveys is less compelling than the mish-mosh of visual, and I guess, being a reader and writer, I want the text to have more heft, to be more “privileged,” if you will.
There’s some work with embroidery that’s kind of interesting. Sometimes sheer excess is interesting, but it’s not something I can or want to emulate. A LOT of stuff is going on with erasure. Again, some of it is interesting. But it’s not erasure I’m looking for.
I enjoyed this use of music score by Esther Sun: https://theindianapolisreview.com/esther-sun-violin-concerto-in-e-minor-opus-64/
Cartoons I find are not interesting me. I often find the multi-frame cartoons make me feel claustrophic.
Maybe what attracted me most in this dive I took are objects that use text, and little books or tea bags or other ways people are incorporating words into things, but again, mostly gnomic in nature.
This question of sense-making or meaning-making seems relevant in my quest — not enough sense in the words and I’m left frustrated, too much sense and I’m left feeling like the visuals are decoration.
Maybe it’s asemic writing that I’m after — asemic meaning without a unit of meaning. Asemic writing alone, itself the only visual input, is less interesting to me. But asemic writing as part of a larger visual work?
Maybe this is the most freeing use of text-like stuff in the embrace of other visual input. Then my eye and mind are free to course among them.
Plus my bad handwriting would then be artful. This is what I could explain to my husband when he complains about not being able to read what I added to the shopping list. (What’s the mystery? It’s either “ice cream” or “cookies”.)