Commentaries - May 2013

It's poetry but it ain't

Objects in visual poetry can be read closer than they appear

Visual poetry has always fascinated me because it’s poetry but it ain’t.

It often contains its own borderblur. Image < --> language

Imaguage. Langmage.

What the oral is to the written, visual poetry is too.

What kind of reading is needed to read visual poetry? Is it different than reading other poetry? Than looking at visual art? Than reading ‘text’ in visual art?

How much of the l of the la of the lan of the lang of the langu of the langua of the languag of the language needs to be there for it to be language?

Or is it not about what’s there, but about a kind of looking. The kind of looking that is reading? A kind of awareness of textuality? Or the possibility of textuality?

The stones suddenly break out in song. Or text.

When is / what is text?

Mum, Dad, I’ve come to terms with my own textuality.

Or I come to terms for textuality.

Dear we’re happy as long you’re legible.

And while we’re at it, what is legible (and legibility) in the visual poem?

What is/can be written there? What’s the vocabulary, t th the t-t-t-tale f-f-from the (s)crypt(ic)(sic)?

How does visual poetry call on the resources of other arts: visual or textual, digital, gestural, aural, oral, et al? What the relation between the visual poem and the musical score?

Is there (or can we create) a repertoire of tools for engaging with visual poetry?

If your eyeyes R hammmers than everytything lookks likke a nnail.

Iff youou ccan rread, thin everyththing seeems lyke langauge.

An’ evverythin seemss rreadibble.

Visuall poettry meanns yu hafve hammmers for eyeyeyes.


In the weeks ahead, I’m delighted to say to write & to draw your attention to a range of marvelous visual poems and vispo digital marvels and their makers as well as thinkers-about. In most commentaries, we’ll aim to examine a visual poem closely, looking to respond with the aplomb of a frog leaping through the surface of its visponding and reading the ripples.

( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( rLeOaOdK ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )

In other words, to q-uote bpNichol’s marvelous visual poetry translation of Basho’s frog poem:

DiPalma reads from 'Further Apocrypha'

This is a four-minute excerpt from a reading given by Ray DiPalma at the Kelly Writers House on April 2, 2012. The full recording is available here: [VIDEO].  An audio recording of the reading (segmented by poem) is also available at PennSound.  In this excerpt he reads several sections from a book called Further Apocrypha, which was published in a strictly limited edition by Pie in the Sky Press. It is one of the most beautiful books I have seen (I saw it only briefly when DiPalma visited KWH last year). To see photographs of the book, go here. The YouTube excerpt was edited for PennSound by Allison Harris.

Ray DiPalma is the author of more than 40 collections of poetry, prose, and graphic works. His recent books include The Ancient Use of Stone (Seismicity Editions, 2009), Pensieri (Echo Park Press, 2009), and Further Apocrypha (Pie in the Sky Press, 2009) — as well as L'Usage ancien de la pierre (Éditions Grèges, 2007), Quatre Poèmes (Éditions Comp'Act, 2006), Pensieri (Editions de l'Attente, 2011) (all three books translated into French by Vincent Dussol). Caper, Volume I. (ML & NLF) was published in English and Italian. Among his earlier collections are Numbers and Tempers, Le Tombeau de Reverdy, Provocations, Hôtel des Ruines, Gnossiennes, and Letters. Widely anthologized in America and Europe, translations of his writings have also appeared in Danish, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and Chinese. A recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Poetry Fund, he lives in New York City and teaches Literature and Writing at the School of Visual Arts.