Into the visual wild

Cometh spring, a new quarter, and our entry, I with 20 brave souls, to the wilderness of visual poetry. Typographic cows at leap over sans-serif moons. Overflowering word gardens. Poems with no words in them.

I’ll post some exercises, and I hope some student work, in weeks to come. Inly the shift from intense poem-making to what may be intense poet-teaching is feeling a bit rocky. But I think once I’m at one with the rocks it’ll be smooth going.

Living Writers: Word and/as Image

The written word is always embodied, on paper or in stone, on bone, among electrons. That means it is both visible and tangible. In addition to writing or reading it, we can trace it, paint on it, rough it up, sand it smooth, stretch it, shrink it, erase or deface it. Meanwhile, the visual image often reaches for the sort of meaning words have, asking us to treat it as legible. No one knows what these figures in Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell mean—

Blake strip - MHH

—but most will feel that they mean. In the word-image nexus, meaning is often fugitive in this way, just beyond the reach of your eyes’ fingertips. In this course, we’ll study poems in which signs keep sliding toward picture, and pictures keep morphing into signs. Our primary texts will be those of living writers, many of them Canadian, but we’ll also dip into earlier works, from Egyptian rebuses to Anglican concrete poems to early Romantic prophetic watercolours. Get ready for a wild ride.

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I write draw teach blog in and from the Pacific Northwest of America.

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