Thursday, 26 June 2008

Visual Poetry - Where Next?

I have been trying to decide where to go next with my visual poetry. The first thing I need to decide is what the product is - is it the photograph or is it the poem itself in whatever context it has been placed? This is a difficult question, when I was placing the text it felt like it was more about the actual text and the context - which would mean that the photograph was merely a record of what I did. However when I printed out some of the photographs the ones I most liked were the ones that were close up fragments of the text. I especially like the one I posted yesterday with the red and white text, which is reminiscent (although unintentionally) of some of Barbara Kruger's works.

Being a big fan of collage I have looked at Kruger's work before. Kruger places text over blown up photographs usually taken from advertising or the media (see picture). I have often made collages in a similar way to this but with my visual poetry I wanted to place the text into a more physical environment than that of a flat page. I also liked the idea of putting the text/poem into an environment that was related in some way to the text. The fragment photos though are definitely remininiscent of Kruger's work. They almost look like advertisments or posters.
Looking at the photographs again has posed more questions - is the content of the text the important thing or is it the context that the text is placed in that is most significant? or are both things of equal importance? Clearly putting text onto the object changes the nature of the object somehow. The object becomes a blank canvas or the equivalent of a blank page. If the poem was about the object itself that would also change the nature of it - making the viewer think about and maybe re-evaluate their relationship with the object.
Another option would be to write the poem as a still life like Popa's poems in "Bark." These poems "start as descriptions and then proceed to withold the usual attributes of the thing being described. They defmamiliarize perception." (Simic, C. in Popa, V. "Homage to the Lame Wolf" Oberlin College Press, 1987).

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Homage to the Lame Wolf

I have been reading Vasko Popa's "Homage to the Lame Wolf" (translated by Charles Simic) and have it inspiring. Popa's poems are a brilliant example of the distillation of language. Each poem is pared right down until only the essentials are left. There are no extras here, nothing that could be added or taken away. The poems set me off on a train of thought that has inspired me to start writing. Popa references family quite a bit in his poems (Father, grandfather, grandmother, great grandfather etc) and this made me start thinking about my own family, their dysfunctions and quirks and I guess my heritage. For my work in the coming year I had been contemplating the idea of writing a kind of fictional autobigraphy as a series of poems, but reading this book has made me wonder about whether I should limit the poems to one voice, one narrator or widen my scope.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Electric Poetry

Electric Poetry
Originally uploaded by pupski
This is another of my visual poetry experiments. this one was on the front of one of those green electricity cupboards that there seem to be loads of in my neighbourhood. I chose one that already had a lot of graffiti on it - partly to add something visually to the piece, but also because somehow I felt bad about defacing one that was more pure and unadulterated. I took quite a few pictures but preferred the ones like this which show a fragment of the text. The text is from a poem that I had written some time ago but that seemed appropriate for the environment. I made the labels from memory and realised today that I had missed out a line - not that that matters really.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Black and White

Black and White poem
Originally uploaded by pupski
Here is the black and white version.

Recycling Day

This is part of a poem that I collaged onto boxes that had been put out for recycling. To use the whole poem seemed too much, it would have made the image too busy. I tried the image in black and white but actually I think that I like the slightly cropped colour version better. I was trying to write in response to the situation so that the poem related more to the context in which it was placed whilst (hopefully) standing up as a poem in its own right. I still feeel that the text is somehow seperate to the background and I am wondering if I should try writing on objects and leaving them ouside for a few days to weather them.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Process or Product

Is it the act of writing itself that is the most important thing or is it the finished poem - the product? Or is it perhaps the editing process? The moving through stages, the paring down and stripping away of cliches and superfluous words until only the bare bones are left: the essence, the distilled meaning - undilluted, like an injection of pure heroin into a vein. When you read a great poem it can lift you to a place of pure emotion, a connection with something bigger and altogether more wondrous than the reality of the here and now. Although sometimes the poem might actually be about this reality but might resonate with you (the reader) so sharply that you almost shout aloud "yes, that's so right" or "I feel just the same way."

For me it is hard for me to say which element of the writing process is the most important or whether they are equal. But I do love the paring down and my aim is to make poems that are not overly wordy or pretentious but that take joy in the use of words and language and hopefully create an experience that the reader can relate to in some way.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Lyrics versus Poetry

After reading "The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison" I found myself wondering about the differences between lyrics and poetry. Lyrics are more akin to classical or lyric poetry than to modern poetry in that they usually rhyme and have a clear structure of verses of equal legnth. They also tend to have less pretensions of goodness or worthiness than poetry (unless you're Bob Dylan or Billy Bragg of course). The words can be meaningless or about the most mundane things and it doesn't matter, no one really minds - what matters is how the lyrics scan, the pentameter, the rhyme and how they fit with the music. Just listen to the lyrics of Spandau Ballet, Black Sabbath or "My Sharona" by The Knack for examples of songs that work well but contain pretty meaningless lyrics.

It must be because of the way that the lyrics fit with music that we find songs easy to remember. I am a big poetry fan but know very few poems all the way through. However I can think of loads of songs that I know all the lyrics to and some of them I haven't heard for years. I might find it hard to remember people's names, important apointments or my shopping list but I can sing you the whole of "Spirit of Radio" by Rush without a moments hesitation! And they're not easy lyrics, if I tried to memorise them like a poem I think I would struggle.

Words by Neil Peart, Music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Inspired by 'The Spirit of Radio' in Toronto,

Begin the day
With a friendly voice
A companion, unobtrusive
Plays that song that's so elusive
And the magic music makes your morning mood

Off on your way
Hit the open road
There is magic at your fingers
For the Spirit ever lingers
Undemanding contact
In your happy solitude

Invisible airwaves
Crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle
With the energy
Emotional feedback
On a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price ---
Almost free...

All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
It's really just a question
Of your honesty

One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity

"For the words of the profits
Are written on the studio wall,
Concert hall ---
Echoes with the sounds...
Of salesmen."

Todays reading: Jim Morrison - Wilderness, The Lost Writings
Frank O'Hara - Selected Poems
Simon Critchley - Things Merely Are

Album of the day: Station to Station - David Bowie

Lost in Translation

I am wondering as I am reading translations of poetry by Jacques PrĂ©vert and Georg Trakl how much of the original essence of a poem is lost in translation. In a sense the translator is writing the poetry him/herself just using a set of words gleened fronm the original work. For example when a friend who could read German translated one of Georg Trakl’s poems aloud he translated it word by word and it was very different to the translation in the book. In fact in these translations words have been changed for poetic effect. It makes me wonder if as a reader I would want a direct translation from the German or am I happy to read the artistic interpretation of the author’s work by another poet (in this case Robin Skelton). If I read ten different translations of the same poem done by different translators how different would they be from one another? Would I find myself reading ten completely different poems or would the essence of each poem be essentially the same? For me as a reader I think I might like to see a direct word for word translation as well, just to satisfy my artistic curiosity.

Visual Poetry

I got a great gadget this week that makes embossed letters on plastic tape and I started playing around with the idea of using it to make visual poetry. This is my first attempt so it isn't all that great but I can already see that there is great potential in the idea. This one isn't really a proper poem - just something that I came up with on the spur of the moment that was in keeping with the wall on which it is displayed. The problem for me with this piece is that the text seems too removed from the wall that it is displayed on I really wanted it to look more as if it belonged there. However that is very hard to acheive and maybe I am approaching it the wrong way. Maybe I should make the alienation of the text from the medium it is placed in more an integral part of the piece.