Poems as artwork
There was a recent contest by poets.org to see who could best render the text of poems in a visual way. Sixteen winners had their renderings featured on the website, including William Carlos William’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”. This was featured in the newsletter, but I thought there were other neat renderings (Denise Levertov’s “Now Shall I Walk Barefoot?” spelled out with many pairs of shoes on a sidewalk; a bar overlooking a bridge with Stevie Smith’s “Not Waving but Drowning” sort of spray painted on the metal (I say sort of because the artistic culprit wrote “I’m Not Waving I’m Drowning” and credited himself…weird); as well a section of Inger Christensen long poem written in Danish on the side of a building! If anyone knows how to get to this building, please write the directions in the comment box.
I thought some of the other visualized poems that featured among others David Berman (the cake), Edna St. Vincent Millay (the candle), and Robert Frost (the swimmer’s) were fantastic. I’m not an active reader of the two latter, but I think David Berman is the bee’s knees.
In a way these remind me of Kenneth Patchen’s wonderfully visualized poems. Last year’s We Meet and The Walking-Away World were both given laudatory introductions from both musician Devendra Banhart as well as cartoonist Jim Woodring. It was great to read their words of praise for Patchen and his highly idiosyncratic visual poems. (It would be great if Patchen were “discovered” by The American Folk Art Museum adjacent to Moma…ahem). Though I was disappointed not to find any of Patchen’s work on poets.org, poetryfoundation.org had a series a year ago titled “The Poem as Comic Strip” and yes, a Patchen poem was graphically rendered in a four paneled strip by Ron Regé Jr..