Poetry Comics

“Hospitality” (c. 2020, mixed media) by Annie Goold

I can’t sleep when I don’t attend some creative call. Write, draw, paint, walk: it has to happen or it won’t shut up.

Lately, I’ve been nourished by the possibilities of crossing mediums, like pairing oil pastel with watercolor via Photoshop. In fact, Lindsey and I are working on a chapbook that takes that combo and allows it to interplay with her poetry. It’ll be ready eventually, once we (well, I) figure out how to place the illustrations with the poetry. Sit tight!

My partner has pushed me even further by adding household materials to the mix, more specifically using rubbing alcohol, salt, and ink with watercolor as it’s still wet. Gotta say, it’s freeing if not a little frightening, too, as I have yet to really know how to apply these new additions in a controlled way, but that’s part of experience: allowing but not relying on the media to behave.

Then, there’s poetry.

When he visited our grad school, Ilya Kaminsky defined a poem as something of three components: sight, sound, and feeling. While I agree, a poem is no less than such, I wondered if there might be an opportunity to summon more in the experience of reading a poem. In this, I mean, might the body exist with the poem beyond simply sight and sound? I’m thinking most directly of the connection between smell and memory. Then again, it takes the sight of the words to teach the senses what is intended in the poem’s experience. The poem is, then, scent or taste or proprioception, time, balance, whatever sense (outside of sight, sound, and feeling) adjacent.

There’s another thing that trips me up: that damn “feeling”. Is that where the body is necessary for the poem to be fully realized? Also, feeling has flex to it. In that, I mean it can literally mean touch as much as the experience of another sense. I’m thinking of that sinus-burn of a sneeze that crescendos but stops just before any sort of exodus, that perpetual preparation for something that simply doesn’t arrive.

There’s a kind of amoebic experience promised in a poem that can only be described as touch, too. “I was touched by your reading” or “That poem touched something in me I didn’t know how to describe until now”. Or, maybe my favorite, “I thought it was just me.” That might be feeling enough.

Since I started writing poetry, I’ve pulled from the experiences of using various media to create 2D and 3D images and physical items. I’ve been knitting since I was 6, so sometimes, I draw in the act of looping together voices to build a single line, like adding multiple yarns to complete a row. Or, I’ll spill out a speaker onto the page uninterrupted by other colors, just focusing on the sound and its stroking/stoking. The poem, like the painting or sculpture, needs a form (re: Episode 2), and it’s my job to figure that out for the poem’s sake.

Now, I’m at the intersection of putting visual arts with written arts, and lemme tell ya: shit’s tough! Lindsey is a master of it (peep that Instagram of hers), but I’m still quite the sapling in the endeavor. Any suggestions are welcome, as I don’t know what I’m doing. I have only just begun.

Along with Linds, there are some other super stars and presses out there who have blazed the way through the poetry comics woods. Some of my favorites are Bianca Stone (the granddaughter of equally as badass Ruth Stone; hilarious, daunting, wounding), Chrissy Williams (founder of poetry comics in the UK; collaborator in loads of poetry comics anthologies), INK BRICK (killer comics poetry publication based out of Philly), and Ley Lines (another publication that investigates the points of contact between comics and words). I was also stunned still by what Pleiades Press has put out there, especially Nance Van Winckel‘s “Book of No Ledge: Visual Poems” and Jessy Randall‘s “How to Tell If You Are Human: Diagram Poems”. Some other folks to watch are Mita Mahato and Gabrielle Bates; I love everything I’ve seen and heard from them thus far, and their work even ventures into the moving arts, another vein of video poems (and something for further discussion in another post).

Get out those crayons, folks. It’s time to scrawl on the scribbles.

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