A History of Poetry Comics #11
(New section!) Book review: “Of Three Minds” by Susanne Reece (DIY, 2022) and “Cake for Everyone” by Susanne Reece (DIY, 2022)
In ways less experimental, in other ways more compelling, the poetry comics of Susanne Reece are direct, confessional, and wonder-provoking. Two recent zines of poetry comics by the writer/artist are engaging examples of words and pictures creating a third meaning. (For more on defining poetry comics see AHOPC #05.)
“Of Three Minds” opens with the title poem, inspired by Wallace Stevens’s blackbird. It’s a series of frames or windows set atop of a bleak winter scene that encloses the lines of the poem and small moments of noticing – a blackbird, clouds, a falling leaf. Anchoring it all is the poet herself, bundled up against winter as observer/experiencer. It brilliantly captures how the mind works, how we assemble a whole from the parts.
This is followed by a series of haiku comics, with the poem spread across three panels with a 5-7-5 syllable count. All of them direct observations by the poet-artist, with titles continuing the winter theme: “A Winter Walk,” “Ice Storm,” “Blizzard,”and “Hibernation.” Each frame provides a different perspective from close-ups to scene setting. After spring, summer, and fall diary comics, Reece returns to haiku comics to end the collection with the dark yet beautiful “DFW–>LGA” and “Insomnia.” In the former, the night opens up the wonders of city lights observed from an airplane. In the latter, night becomes an antagonist when the artist can’t fall asleep. Her confessions always get at something deeper.
This is also true in Reece’s “Cake for Everyone.” Nestled among the dominant diary comics are two poetry comics – “Guilty Pleasure” and “The Lantern Fish.” In both, from the darkness, light appears as a flicker – desperate yet defiant. There is advice we learn from our elders as well as from nature, she reminds us. In both, as Reece writes, “trying to find / Its way in the dark.” Indeed.
Reece self-describes her work as “comics poetry, comics essays, and diary comics.” See more of her comics – and buy her books – at her website here.
Warning: This incomplete history maps my journey as a poet learning about comics and doesn’t follow a strict chronological order.