Visual Poetry by Individualist
The next poetic form that I wish to try is probably the most well known standard of poetry dating back to the beginning of English History. It is one that continues to this day in verse and is well known in song. This is the Ballad. The rules for a Ballad are simple enough. The form makes use of Iambic foots in alternating lines of eight syllables (four feet) and six syllables (three feet). The traditional form is broken into a quartet of four lines of verse with the second and last lines of the quartet rhyming. Alternatively there are poets who have authored ballads that make use of six lines as opposed to four. In an omage to the idea of the Ballad as a song I have chosen to have the poem’s verses be two traditional quartets followed by a six line chorus where the third and last lines rhyme. As I read the poem I can see why this form has been so successful over the ages. There seems to be something in repeating the verse that sounds right. For a much better discussion on ballads I will refer you to this link by Conrad Geller:
In this poem there was one structure that I wanted to play with that is prevalent in many poetry written today and that is the half meaning. This is where the sentence breaks across the lines of the poem and is called enjambment. However the break is in such a fashion that, the lines taken by themselves, have a different meaning than the sentence as a whole. This is supposed to enhance the questions that a good poem is supposed to bring to the reader. This comes from a very good book on poetry that I am beginning to read called “A Poet’s Guide to Poetry” by Mary Kinzie ISBN 0-226-43739-6. I tried to make use of enjambment in the chorus sections of the poem in order to further differentiate them.
Because the written word elements of the Ballad are themselves simple and straight forward I thought this would be a good piece to work with and discuss the visual elements of the poem. I thought that first I would discuss where I got the inspiration for the idea of visual poetry. It came from the book “Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud ISBN 1-58389-759-8. In this book Mr. McCloud defines Comics as follows:
“Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.”
His website is ScottMcCloud.com
Mr. McCloud argues that Comics as an art form should not be limited to super heroes and fuzzy animals and in fact can be an art form that expresses many styles and genres including high art and literature. He explains that the use of Sequential Art to tell a story provides the artist with not just the elements of words and pictures but combined form something completely knew. Thus he argues in this book why can’t art and literature be expressed using this form. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.
It was this concept that gave me the idea for Visual Poetry. For me it is not just a poem with pictures. What I am trying to do is to convey a meaning beyond the ability that the picture and the written word could do by themselves. Whether I am successful or not is a matter of subjective judgment but I feel that Visual Poetry is something related to but different from poetry by itself.
Mr. McCloud emphasizes that the use of frames in comics provide the space between them that allows the reader’s imagination to fill in the rest of the narrative of the story. Thus, in comics, space is used to represent time. It would seem then that this is a difference between Visual Poetry and Comics that would need to be resolved for in the poem the transition from line to line and stanza to stanza do not always reflect a traditional story developing as it does a progression of meaning. However in his book McCloud describes six types of transitions between panels from changes in action to scene and subject. He also explains the sixth as non-sequitur where the frames seem to have no relation to one another. However he suggests that even in pictures that display the most jarring differences there is a kind of alchemy where the mind will attempt to make relations from one to another, meaning that even if it still makes no sense it is somehow different combined than the original frames would be alone. It is in this context that poetry also resides as each line and stanza offer questions for the reader to spur the imagination so too does the gutter between the frames provide questions that spur the imagination. Thus the “time” in a Visual Poem is a progression of meaning. Non Sequitur is used extremely rarely in most comic genres as they are attempting to tell a story as in a movie. It is I find to some extent more prevalent in the visual poems I have written. The meaning of the poem providing the tie in that connects dissimilar pictures.
This poem “The World’s Most Famous Beach” is an omage to my home town. I call it my home town because while as an air force brat I was raised all over the states, it is where my family finally settled and I went to High School. If my parents had known that the high school was in walking distance of the spring break college expo they may have chosen where to settle from the service differently. Luckily for me by the time they figured it out it was too late to move. Here I have tried to set rules for the framing of the visual poem to match the rules for the words of poetry. The two stanzas that make each verse thus have two comic style blocks embedded on one frame. The pictures are dedicated to the individuals depicted in the story except for the last group of stanzas. The choruses are one picture and these are pictures of the city. The words in the verses are shown off the frame while the words of the chorus are embedded within the frame. There are similar colors and other unique elements to highlight the main characters of the poem especially as it relates to the level of detail.
I liked the concept of this poem and the pictures required a lot more work than usual. I hope you enjoy them.
13 March 2010
Visual Poetry by Individualist