Visual Poetics

Today I found this poem, which you must click in order to understand the very little I'm going to say about it because I can't post it here without Blogger exploding.

A major goal of poems, of course not all, is to arrange words onto lines that create an image in the reader's consciousness. A way to take this one step further is to create the image out of words you want your reader to imagine. For example, writing a poem about a swan while literally creating an image of a swan with the words in the poem. This is called concrete poetry, and this is often called cheesy poetry, at least by me.

A different twist is to still use words to create an image, except the only requirement is to make it interesting (assuming the poet wants you to be interested). This is what Mary Szybist does in her poem "All Times and All Tenses in this Moment."

This poem rotates around a point and its lines occasionally connect to others in terms of subject. At first glance, it's difficult not to say, "Cooool." But beyond this immediate reaction, I'm left feeling a bit let down by what the poem has to offer me. If a poem is to be judged by the originality of its language, its ability to create an emotional response in the reader, and its development from point A to B, Szybist does not win any medals from me with this poem.

However, this poem isn't playing by conventional rules, but rather against them, so the original criteria for a poem's success don't really matter. Maybe this poem only wants a, "Coooool," and nothing more. If so, then two "cool's" up; if this poem still wants to play in the conventional realm (but it doesn't), I give it only a half "cool." What'dya think? What are your thoughts on Szybist poem?

image source


daniel bailey | January 30, 2011 at 1:55 PM

what i like about the poem is it's ability to create "infinite poem." you can literally start reading wherever and stop reading wherever. i also do like that the repeated "who's" create sort of a pattern and that this consistency makes the circle more glaring, more solar. this is very much a more focused version of a poem i've read in gillian conoley's the plot genie, a book i didn't thoroughly enjoy. i wish i had the book in front of me right now so i could say something about that, but i don't. anyway, this whole olsonesque thing of using the poem as a field seems sort of restrictive in a way, that being that using the poem as a piece of visual art, one has a hard time focusing on the poem as an act of language at the same time. i don't remember any lines because i was focused on the act of turning my laptop screen around and felt distracted by the novelty of doing so (which is exactly my reaction to the conoley poem i mentioned earlier).

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