Satu Kaikkonen is a prolific and protean poet from Finland. She writes that “I'm a storymaker and this is seen in the narrative aspects of my vispos. Each series is like [one] continuing poem and the individual vispos are its verses.”
In this commentary, I’d like to focus on two ‘verses’ from her Grey and Yellow Series: “Sisters” and “A Grandmother.”
The images are two vignettes or mises-en-scène. Chekovian tableaux in abstract space. A subdued grey background. A chair or two. One chair remains in the identical place. One is added or removed.
A conversation with kevin mcpherson eckhoff where I speak in italics and he speaks in normal.
You didn’t even write this! You solicited participants to contribute to “their biography” of you. Or as you term it in the subtitle, “an organism of relationships amassed by and about the object often identified as kevin mcpherson eckhoff.” Maybe that’s a definition that works for literature or a poem: “an organism of relationships amassed by & about the object often identified as [literature or poem]. Except there’d have to be something about end rhymes and the soul.
The end of the soul is synonymous with exceptions. Synonyms are a kind of rhyme. Relationships dynamic create errors of within, and this betweenness of everything is a reality field of meaningful electrons. As a human invention, poetry mitigates such betweens. I suspect bpNichol may have seen poems as such halfway points. The not-quite-you plus not-quite-me is what breathes within the enclosures of words. Words are actions. Actions alone won’t save us. Redemption isn’t a hidden MEaning or a hidden YOUaning, but an ever-apparent WEaning. Spoiler alert: I cheated & read ahead!
Márton Koppány’s deceptively simple images, are comprised of the small visual symbols of our modern life: yes, ellipses, quotation marks, and speech balloons, but also everyday objects such as a chair, a fish, some sunglasses. But he doesn’t attempt to represent these things, but rather presents simple photographs of them. It’s our clipart-world, our JPGscape. And these images — from the language of words or the language of visuality — play together on a flat field comprised of simple unmodulated colours. They live in that unhurried purgatory of the semantic present, living out the relationships of unworried signs in an semiotic utopian playground without hierarchies.
The name of Helen Hajnoczky's current project, Magyarazni, means ‘to explain,’ but translates literally to mean ‘make it Hungarian.’ Magyarazni is comprised of 44 visual poems based on Hungarian folk art, one for each letter of the Hungarian alphabet. Each visual poem is accompanied by a poem written in English, each titled with a Hungarian word beginning with the letter in the accompanying visual poem.
Helen spoke with me about Magyarazni.
GB: I’m intrigued by how this work engages with issues of art vs. decoration, artist vs. artisan, and handiwork vs. print.
HH: Though many people who create folk art are talented, skilled artists, folk art is at the same time something that lay people can confidently engage with and participate in. Some very charming folk art is not perfect, but contains irregularities that reveal the hand of the artist. This is certainly the case with my work. I am not skilled at drawing, but I don’t think that fact precludes me from making interesting folk art. One of the things I find appealing about making contemporary folk art is that you can draw from a broad set of existing designs to use in your own work. Making folk art does not demand that you be completely innovative.
Barney and Betty Rubble go to the Grand Canyon and send a postcard back to Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Fred and Wilma aren’t too impressed by the canyon but think the notion of a ‘postcard’ is a pretty neat idea. (I read this in a poem long ago. Unfortunately I can’t find the source. Send me a postcard if you know.)
Over the years, the typewriter has been important for visual poetry. For example, Dom Sylvester Houédard’s typestracts. Or Steve McCaffery’s monumental Carnival.
Stephen Nelson’s Dance of Past Lives is an array of alphabetic pas de deux. Duets de Y. The letter as body. As body text. An abstract dance, wise metaphorms meta(phor)morpho-singing into stars, trees, other symbols. Y is another. An A. A tittle or jot as ball, sun, rayless star. I-less is another.
Antibodies are y-shaped. Texts are (wh)y-shaped. Y? Not because (Y)YOLO.
An array of past whys. Whysdom. What were our letters in a past life? How did we read?
The visual poems in Christian Bök’s series, Odalisques, fascinate me, both as texts in themselves and because these resting female bodies appear so different from the rest of his body of work.
These pieces, as representations of female nudes, are mimetic and seem to engage with notions of representation of gender (the female body and more specifically, the ‘male gaze’), both in visual art and in language. Is the body — specifically here, a woman’s body — concubined by language? Are women trapped in its semantic (sementic) harem (-scarum)? Trapped by a kind of economy, a commodifying calligraphy?
Or is it the other way around: language itself is the concubine that must give pleasure to its master, that must live in the seraglio of its grammatical sultan?
Erica Baum’s Study is a text rich with texture. With contexture. We read the tactility of the woven page, the richness of the colors and the striking design of the background. Its allusiveness: the allusion to a source text. Its elusiveness: the oblique referentiality and poetry of the words.
Coming to the work without any paratextual context or explanation, a reader might first be aware of the ‘bookishness’ of the piece. To the conventions alluded to. These are ‘pages’ or, at least, parts of a book. Time for your close-up, book. There seem to be source texts that inform the work, even if it isn’t clear what the sources are. And these sources may be real or imaginary texts or contexts.