What happens when 'talking' happens? It doesn't always make things clearer. But what else happens? Is there another kind of exchange, another kind of dance? How are we changed by listening, by looking?
Pleasure in viewing is a pleasure to think freely, visually, without destroying it with interior chatter. (from Notes 3: for Martín Gubbins)
What can you say about seeing? It’s wonderful, well, that’s not nearly enough. Try as you might, and thousands have, to describe the joyous nature of seeing...It’s a passage from the thing through the eye into the brain. Seems like a fantastically long journey where anything can happen. And it does. And no one ever seems to really be there. No one ever gets it right, so we continue to look, to stare. (fromStaring Poetics Appendix One.)
A conversation with Nico Vassilakis about reading, looking, and visual poetry where my questions are invisible.
Perhaps I state the obvious when I write of staring at the alphabet and watching letters dislocate. Few vispoets write about what they do, even fewer about how they see.
The alphabet has a tendency to transmogrify when stared at long enough. It unravels and informs the viewer/reader of its simultaneous realities, that is, the housing of both visual and verbal elements.
Icelandic artist Ragnhildur Jóhanns’ work exists in the liminal space between book and art, between reading and looking, but perhaps, most significantly, because much of her work is so tactile, between looking and touching.
But doesn’t the experience of reading books always involve touching? We touch with our eyes. We look with our fingers. Books are also anthologies of touch. Their bindings, pages, paper, print. Holding a book. Turning its pages. We feel the paper – its texture and thickness. As my niece once exclaimed, “Wow! Its pages are paper thin.”
When we engage with written language, we feel each curve or angle of letter. Some books are the size of a sparrow, some are eagle-sized.
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.