Here are the introductions for both editions of the visual poetry book. I hope the contributors will feel free to download copies & include with the books for reference, documentation & context:

 

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Below is the introduction for the first edition:

 

 

 


 

 

 

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You can also cut & paste the introduction into another, if you like:

 

Introduction to Edition #1

Visual Poetry Collaborative Book Project

 

In December 2011, Cheryl Penn (South Africa) and I placed a call through the international mail-art network inviting artists and writers to contribute a chapter each for a new collaborative book project we were coordinating. Responses were enthusiastic, warm and generous: Creating this book required time, commitment, thought, and dialog. We soon were pleased to announce a second edition.

 

This first edition includes work by Matthew Stolte (Wisconsin, USA), Guido Vermeulen (Brussels, Belgium), Bernd Reichert (Brussels, Belgium), and Diane Keys (Illinois, USA); they have already made substantial contributions to visual poetry. We were pleased to be joined by veteran mail-artists Katerina Nikoltsou (Thessaloniki, Greece) and Richard Canard (Illinois, USA). Cleveland Wall (Pennsylvania, USA) is an accomplished poet; Victoria Barvenko (Tagenrog, Russia) is a Fluxus artist. Janine Weiss (Boudry, Switzerland), Rebecca Guyver (Suffolk, UK), and KDJ (Florida, USA) are among the artists in the book who have ventured into the visual poetry realm for the first time. This diversity of talent and perspectives has coalesced to produce a stunning and cohesive overview of the many nuances of contemporary visual poetry.

 

Co-coordinator Cheryl Penn – book artist, painter, visual poet – has done intensive research on artist Ray Johnson and his New York Correspondence School, which in the 1960s established the foundation of today’s thriving global mail-art community. Based on mail-art’s shared values of inclusion and collective activity, Cheryl has developed and refined a highly effective process for making artists’ books. These editions include the work of numerous contributors and bypass publishing snares related to editorial decisions, production, and distribution. The success of this process is evident in the five editions released in the previous Asemics 16 project as well as this edition.

 

Having a meeting place in cyberspace has been invaluable to this project. The International Union of Mail-Artists (IUOMA), founded by Ruud Janssen (Breda, Netherlands), served as an ideal headquarters. We were able to

INTRODUCTION TO VISUAL POETRY BOOK EDITION #1 - 2

 

participate in group discussions, coordinate mailings, and share drafts of work. Many thanks to Ruud Janssen who created and maintains this wonderful resource.

 

For decades, mail-art has been a conduit and safe haven for concrete poetry, visual poetry, haptic poetry, object poetry, asemic writing, and visual poetry, among others. Visual poetry (also known as vispo) might well be the most popular of these forms today, especially since it has received a fairly positive reception in many universities. Yet it is among the most difficult to explain. Given the diversity of artists in the project, we found it essential to provide an operational definition. Cheryl’s concept that each contributor’s chapter would be an homage to a favorite artist or visual poet provided thematic coherence. Their choices and methods of honoring historic figures are a fascinating aspect of the book.

 

At least one strain of visual poetry we see now evolved directly from concrete poetry pervasive in the 1960s and 70s (although its historical roots are far deeper). Also known as typewriter art and shape poetry, concrete poets have a materialist view of language. The words and subject of the poem determine the poem’s shape on the page, re-defining form in terms of visual image on the page rather than more traditional means such as sonnets or sestinas, to name two among thousands. Yet even traditional poetry is associated with certain configurations of text on the printed page.

 

The boundaries of concrete poetry were soon shattered in the 1980s and 90s, in the Age of Xerography, when poets experimented with image-textual integration, abstraction, and dense overlays as well as minimalism that fractured basic elements of the alphabet (or bypassed the whole thing by inventing new languages through asemic writing). The Digital Age, in turn, has opened more opportunities for visual poetry than ever before in photography, image-text integration and arrangement, image and text access, video, 3-D, and much more.

 

 

INTRODUCTION TO VISUAL POETRY BOOK EDITION #1 - 3

 

Cheryl and I left decisions about definitions of visual poetry to the artists as much as possible. In the discussions that did arise, we emphasized integration of text and image that is composed using concepts of poetics or the poetic, awareness of structure, and visual syntax. (We had a number of interesting discussions with some of the artists about organic form.) Thus, we expected work ranging from text-oriented and similar to concrete poetry to pieces presenting images, entirely devoid of writing or words.

 

One of the more difficult concepts to convey is the possibility of poetry completely devoid of the printed, written, or spoken word: a paradox to some and a total contradiction to others. Yet views of language and poetics as abstract structures, where a syntax of visual images is possible for example, opened the door. We are also faced with the intriguing question: Can the poetic be expressed without words and conventional forms? Our visual poets give us an affirmative reply.

 

The work in this edition reveals a wide range of approaches and styles; however, most of the artists chose a middle-ground, using both text and image to explore symbol relationships, build structures, and explore possibilities for expression. For me, this is one of the most important contributions of the edition and one which I hope readers will examine closely.

 

We have an occasion in this edition of artists, writers, and visual poets engaged together in exploring a terrain that is still largely uncharted. They look to figures that inspired them for sources, connections, and explanations. We find beauty and innovation and, above all else, an affirmation of the power and need for human expression.

 

 

 

De Villo Sloan

Auburn, New York, USA

April 21, 2012

Ok - WOW - a fabulous read as usual - thank you De Villo - we've been waiting - but it certainly was NOT in vain! "Integration, abstraction, dense overlays as well as minimalism which fractured basic elements of the alphabet" - such a succinct description.  This was difficult intro to write I think - I found the work more diverse under the category 'vispo' than work produced during the asemic collaboration - thank you!! I - great piece of writing XX

A difficult!!! pppfft! 

Thanks, Cheryl. Vispo is as slippery as wrestling a greased pig. "There is no there there." I hope this helps.

Wow, DVS--way more than worth the wait. As you say in your comment, "there is no there there," but you manage to touch on all the "theres" in your intro despite that. In approaching my chapter (for edition 2), I relied heavily on your discussions with some of us about visual poetry, in which you presented it well in all its various forms and yet left us with or gave to us a great openness from which to work: history of structures plus freedom to explore anew encourages imagination of the most intriguing kind, I think. Thank you for this great introduction. 

Thanks, Nancy.

 

Hopefully soon on the heels of this, a separate intro for edition #2 will be posted. I was emailingl w/Cheryl about this - the content of the two issues is very different. I think there are some separte trends that emerge in #2 that really deserve a look.

 

We didn't get into the depths of discussion about vispo the way we did with asemics, partially by design. With all the good that came of that, some people got really heated & there was some intolerance for what others were doing & nit-picking over definitions. Poetry seems to always bring out rancor & there was no need to start yet another Poetry War - as Tom Clark chronicled in "The Great Naropa Poetry War" & other similar spats & the New Formalists vs. Lango & on yet again.

 

So, wow, thanks for wading through and I'm onto #2 with you, Reed, John Bennett, Tic Tac, Skybridge, Cheryl - that turns out be an incredible lineup & really, I have to admit, a personal fav to keep along with some of the asemic books.

Many many thanks DVS! Fabulous context. I want to thank you all (again) for being so inclusive.  I have felt privileged to receive each of your chapters and have learned much about the genre as a result of the project. Now that I know you all a bit more I'm not sure how I had the chutzpah to launch myself into the project in the first place, but am glad I did.

I have already downloaded and printed my intro. I have to admit deliberating over the paper to print DVS' words onto for quite some time. First I chose some 1 1/2 cm graph paper but In the end I chose a warm white 160gm cartridge.

Great - Thanks,  De Villo!

john

Thanks KDJ, but it's a kind of therapy that helps me understand what the whole thing is about.

 

Getting all the chapters together & really going through them very slowly & thoughtfully at the end is an experience I start to look forward to after having been through a bunch of these projects. The work is just consistently outstanding with the vispo. The artists put a lot into it, including you. However, I'm not a binder & am still trying to figure that part out.

 

Thanks again.

Oh, yes, excellent writing, Sloan! Really do appreciate all the time and effort that goes into such intros. As others have said, this adds sooooo much to the whole. I plan to print out the intro on rice paper and mount it on blue card, of course. And I so understand the problem of "binding"...especially with this series of vispo chapters. DVS, you might think about "slip cover", like I am using...a "box" really, that is on the bookshelf and friends come by and take it and can "read through" any and/or all pages they wish:

Introduction to Edition #2

Visual Poetry Collaborative Book Project

In December 2011, Cheryl Penn (South Africa) and I placed a call through the international mail-art network inviting artists and writers to contribute a chapter each for a new collaborative book project we were coordinating. Responses were enthusiastic, warm and generous: We soon announced this second edition.

On the pages ahead, you will find innovative work by members of the international visual poetry community including Nancy Bell Scott (Maine, USA), John M. Bennett (Ohio, USA), Rosa Gravino (Argentina), Samuel Montalvetti (Argentina), Marcela Peral (Argentina), and TIC TAC (Germany). Fluxus is represented by contributions from Reed Altemus (Maine, USA) and Svetlana Pesetskaya (Russia). We were pleased to be joined by veteran mail-artists CT Chew (Washington State, USA), Angie Cope (Wisconsin, USA), Skybridge Studios (Indiana, USA), and Svenja Wahl (Germany).

Co-coordinator Cheryl Penn – book artist, painter, visual poet – has done intensive research on artist Ray Johnson and his New York Correspondence School, which in the 1960s established the foundation of today’s thriving global mail-art network. Based on mail-art’s shared values of inclusive and collective activity, Cheryl has developed and refined an effective process for making highly individualized artists’ books. Her concept that each contributor’s chapter would be an homage to a favorite artist or visual poet provides thematic coherence.

The work in this edition reveals that visual poetry, a synthesis of the visual arts and literature, has emerged as a vital mode of expression that is inventing new forms. Approaches to visual poetics in these pages reveal great diversity. TIC TAC (Germany), for instance, draws upon minimalism that focuses on single letters and words to produce brilliant irony and complex narratives. John M. Bennett’s chapter is a flawless integration of text and image that offers both new ways of reading and seeing.

Introduction to Edition #2

Visual Poetry Collaborative Book Project - 2

 

The visual poetry concept, for most of us, is best understood through the lenses of painting, photography, collage, video and similar genres: Contemporary cultures program us to be adept at reading visual images, image sequences (from montage in film), and visual syntax. We can readily accept the notion that written and printed language is part of the larger visual image landscape. Thus, it is plausible that text and image can be integrated to create metaphor, rhetoric, lyricism, narrative, non-linearity, form and even visual prosody – elements associated with literary tradition and the notion of the poetic.

 

What is less apparent, but revealed especially by the work in this edition, is that the “Great Tradition” of poetry has evolved in such a way that visual poetry is now a viable, if not a desirable, genre in the post-literature of the 21st century. Poetry was an oral as well as visual tradition long before it was affixed in the printed word or quarantined as something called literature; it had forms, rhythms, and symbols that made it vital long before scholars froze and sought to create systems of measure and evaluation, making absurd assertions that jamming inane content into the form of a sonnet or counted syllables somehow automatically qualified as poetry.  

 

The Age of Literature and the printed word are only part of a far greater continuum stretching back into prehistory. Poetry will very likely endure as an essential human activity long after literary canons and theories have been forgotten, certainly in spoken word form, but also in visual form outside the limits of accepted definitions today. In addition to forms of digital visual poetry, the handmade books – such as this edition – are increasingly viewed as object and haptic poetry themselves.

 

Central to poetry in the 20th century was a sustained engagement with the image and its refinement into image structures within the poem. Arthur Rimbaud in the 19th century, whose work is a precursor to Modernism, foresaw not only the rise of the image but the possibility of visual poetry in his sonnet “Vowels” (1872):

Introduction to Edition #2

Visual Poetry Collaborative Book Project - 3

 

A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels.

I will tell you, one day, of your newborn portents:

A, the black velvet jacket of brilliant flies whose essence

Co-mingles, abuzz, around the cruelest of smells,

 

Wells of shadow; E, the whitewash of mists and tents,

Lances of glaciers, albino kings, frost-bit fennels…

 

Rimbaud’s poem can be read as notes for the construction of a visual poem. Individual letters are isolated from words and given color designations, melding word and image. The color-vowels generate a sequence (montage) of associative images that provide content. Many of the poems in this visual poetry collection are a realization of Rimbaud’s vision, using image as language and language as image.

 

Several decades later, Ezra Pound’s Imagism established a foundation for Modernism. The imagist agenda called for inclusion of poetic traditions outside Europe, economy of language - a paring of rhetoric - in favor of image primacy and a belief that the image by itself can convey meaning and provide lyrical expression. Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” (1913) is an example of Imagism that also foreshadows visual poetry:

 

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.

 

The economy and precision of the poem helped pave the way to minimalist poetry. The structure is two images, separated visually on the page with line breaks. Again, this piece could be translated into a visual poem. The primacy of the image expanded and increased from Modernism into the Postmodern.

 

William Carlos Williams and later Robert Creeley further refined poetic minimalism and use of the image. Visual poetry took root elsewhere, of course, and in different ways. Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons is an influential

 Introduction to Edition #2

Visual Poetry Collaborative Book Project - 4

 

experiment in language-painting. New York School poets sought to create a literary version of abstract expressionism and action painting. In the meantime, DaDa and Fluxus (among other avant garde movements) produced text-image hybrids, including concrete poetry, through anti-art that ran counter to Modernism. In the last quarter of the 20th century, these efforts evolved and coalesced to make the concept of visual poetry possible.

 

We have an occasion in this edition to experience visual poets engaged together in exploring a terrain that is still largely uncharted in the recognizable form of the book and chapters. While their work is still labeled avant-garde (a term that is now essentially meaningless as are so many other similar designations), they draw heavily upon the tradition of literature (which after all remains a rich vein) following a charge to poets made a century earlier: “Make it New.” We find beauty, lyricism, and above all else, an affirmation of the power and need for human expression.

 

 

 

De Villo Sloan

Auburn, New York, USA

May 7, 2012

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