As a writer of odd things that settle into landscapes, frame subjects, or move around the page, I’ve had some common hiccups in the poem-ing process. The big one is
In writing a poem that takes apart its words to display relevant patterns and shapes, the occasional bonus word shows up, being formed of roots, affixes, or other awkward combos: ion ere ad all iron are pretty common.
I used to like to think they could play in and be an effective part of my poems, but with time I think they are probably worth ditching. Sorry, darlings. Even if a word is relevant, the entire word is gutted and made into some amalgamation of multiple meanings (too much Parmenides recently to think about that right now). The random, new word redirects comprehension from that of reading a poem with its words directed by their graphic qualities to reading a dissected Frankenstein language. It ends up looking like incomprehensible babble of sound and meaning combinations that might as well be participating in some quantum, in more than one place at one time, meaning production system. Sorry, but that dog just won’t hunt.
Gravity is natural to the eye
…anti gravity is not, unless it’s a tree. The reading eye easily gets confused in swirling, rising, or otherwise moving forms. Abstract billows of thought, word clouds, and rising ghosts only work when the reader is aware of each depiction’s particular reality. A tree naturally grows toward the sun, like the flower in Mary Ellen Solt’s Forsythia.
Moving through the space of the page makes sense, IT CAN BE DONE. The poem just needs to take physical realities and representative norms into consideration before building a world with writing.
No Shape, No Mind
Without logical physical presence, a visual poem is a mess of language and a slump of image. A visual poem needs to link voice, that living, expressive subject with an equally logical (maybe familiar is a better word?) physical presence on the page.
I’ve written poems in a gyre that could not hold #yeats. I’ve had poems with shapes that even I couldn’t decipher, except while in the act of writing them. I’ve learned that following graphic designers, graphic novel layouts, and regular old naturally occurring phenomena helps paint a clear picture on the page no matter what the medium.
There are a ton of things that can go wrong in a visual or concrete poem. Mostpeople, in the Cummings sense, don’t know what they are looking at, feeling the need to be somehow aware of what they are involved in. We know that we know very little about the things we are involved in, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Like any other fantasy world, the page of a visual poem needs to contain some parameters of our natural lives so we have a visual starting point.