A History of Poetry Comics #10

Concrete poetry can inform our understanding of poetry comics. They are literally words, letters and/or characters as pictures. The graphic element emerges from the letters and characters used.

The common idea I see is that the words/letters/characters and the resulting picture/image/field come together to do what they can’t achieve on their own. (See my note on *illumination* in my attempt in #05 to define poetry comics.)

There’s also an urge I sense by the concrete poets to provide context for their ideas. Concrete implies building and foundation. The resulting whole (words as image) underpins the attempt to place letters and typewriter characters graphically on the page often times within frames (or at the least within the restraint of margins). It’s the same process that the comics artist wrestles with – composition on the page within the boundaries of a frame.

Concrete poetry is centuries old, however, the term *concrete poetry* was coined in the early 1950s. Below are some concrete poems from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Though my predisposition for manual typewriters is evident in these examples, the proliferation of home computers has even further expanded the exploration of concrete poems, pushing into the realm of visual poetry.

zeeeyooosshhhhhhhh by Cavan McCarthy from Typewriter Poems (Something Else Press, 1972)
“From: A Movie Book” by Bob Cobbing from Typewriter Poems (Something Else Press, 1972)
from “4 vizual pomes” by bill bissett reprinted in breth (Talonbooks, 2019); originally published in soul arrow (blewointmentpress, 1980)
from “KON 66 & 67” by bp nichol reprinted in bp: beginnings (BookThug, 2014); originally published by Ganglia, 1968.

Many concrete poems are also sound poems, which mirrors the challenges of “performing” poetry comics. The intimacy of encountering the poetry comic on the page can’t truly be replicated through projection or screen sharing at a reading. (I will explore performance of poetry comics in a future post.)

Timeline: 1960s – 1980s

Warning: This incomplete history maps my journey as a poet learning about comics and doesn’t follow a strict chronological order.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s