THE PLACE FOR POETRY: VISUAL CULTURE

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by Carmina Masoliver

The Place for Poetry’ conference at Goldsmiths took place from the 7-8th May, and I attended it with She Grrrowls, as well as within my poetry collective, Kid Glove.

The end of the first panel I’d attended discussed the importance of white space and the ole of images as part of the process, and linked nicely to the next panel about the relationship between visual art and poetry, which I was interested in due to my own project Poetry&Paint. Sophie Collins spoke of Mary Richardson’s defacement of Venus to highlight the hypocrisy of such an outcry, and she also touched on the Guerrilla Girls, leading to new kinds of art by women largely disregarded within ekphrastic poetry, and highlighting a collection entitled ‘In the Frame: Women’s Ekphrastic Poetry’, published in 2009.

The focus was a discussion of Rachael Allen’s 4chan poems. I hadn’t heard of the website ‘4chan’ before, but it seemed a unique concept to create poems from the basis of an image-based bulletin board, which — being the internet — provided useful commentary on the role of gender, acting as a platform for feminist art work.

A consideration of internet memes or commercial art is not, Collins argued, created with a desire for such close scrutiny. This also connects to Collins’ idea of inserting herself into predominately male spaces, referencing academia and museums, but could be considered in a kind of virtual space too.

to create poems from the basis of an image-based bulletin board

I was excited to see Chrissy Williams as I have become interested in comics within recent years, namely more indie comics, than the mainstream, which is what Williams has also been concerned with here. Spending her time teaching poetry and editing comics, Williams presented a slideshow of comics, claiming if William Blake (someone who I cite as an inspiration in this vein) was working today, his work may be seen as being within this medium. She focused on how the worst examples merely illustrate the poetry, and the best have an integrated relationship between image and text. There was also a conflict between what kind of artist you are, with which I could identify. As a writer, your eye naturally gives more attention to words, so you have to retrain yourself to give equal weighting to both.

(WIlliam Blake © blakearchive)

Williams noted other interesting phenomena about comics, in that the more cartoon-like an image, the more a reader will see themselves as the character as opposed to another. One author that explicitly refers to her work within the genre of ‘poetry comics’ is Bianca Stone (Someone Else’s Wedding Vows, Tin House Books).

worst examples merely illustrate the poetry, and the best have an integrated relationship between image and text

Last in this section was Lucy Burns who opened up an unknown world of internet poetry and ‘cuteification’ with a focus on The YOLO Pages and I Love Roses When They’re Past Their Best. The former includes ‘alt lit,’ ‘weird twitter,’ flarf, Twitter text, and more. The latter similarly influenced by the digital age, composition methods including the use of algorithms and databases. In terms of ‘cuteification’, this was concerned with a manipulation of cute objects, exemplified with Cassadra Gillig’s poem ‘bitch im the central park hello kitty,’ creating a visual oxymoron between the image and text. Burns’ paper went into more depth than this article can allow, touching on gender, capitalism and poetry as a cultural commodity.

Part 3, The Place for Poetry: Performance, published here.

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