Vispo by Alicia Starr (Iowa City, Iowa, USA)

Alicia - 5.11.2014 - 1

Mail-art by IUOMA member Alicia Starr (Iowa City, Iowa, USA)

May 11, 2014 - In recent months, Alicia Starr has been creating some fantastic visual-textual mail-art that includes calligraphy, asemics, cut-ups, overlays and, now, this visual poetry I am thrilled to share.

The poem appears on an over-sized postcard and reminds me of the composition method used by USA visual poets such as C. Mehrl Bennett (Ohio), Matthew Stolte (Wisconsin) and David Chirot (Wisconsin). The form is organic, as opposed to the formalism of concrete poetry, and suggests the shape and content of a traditional lyric.

The dominant use of black and white references text on a page as well as drawing, and the repetition of lines can be viewed as a reference to the physical appearance of measured lines on a page while at the same time dissolving linearity. The asemics further re-enforce textuality while at the same time integrating textual symbols with images. Indeed, what I like most about the work is the nearly seamless integration of text and image into a cohesive structure that is also deeply expressive. I believe this type of “open field” composition in visual poetry can be very challenging.

Just as most lyric poems are built around a powerful image elevated to metaphor, Alicia Starr uses the arm and hand as the dominant images in her poem. In terms of subjective interpretation, it strikes me that the inclusion of the arm(s) and hand(s) suggests the process of writing and assembling; they add a human presence to the act of creation and forming meaning from chaos. Alicia included some explanation on the reverse side:

Alicia - 5.11.2014 - 2

The conventions of vispo are largely undefined compared to traditional poetry, yet Alicia Starr has succeeded in creating a work that has classical qualities in terms of unity and meaning. I see this as being very positive for both visual poetry and Alicia Starr: Deepest thanks for the wonderful work!

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Comment by De Villo Sloan on May 16, 2014 at 2:40am

Thanks Alicia & other friends who so kindly allow me to test my own ideas by writing about their vispo & asemics. Vispo is still a wide open frontier. Few venture to explain what it is. Not much has been done about how to "read" it or what any individual piece might mean. Responses are intuitive. Most people who encounter it like it but are at a loss to elaborate. Some say that's enough. But sooner or later we'll have to come to terms with it. THEY will have to come to terms with it. Better us than them, if you know what I mean.

Comment by Alicia Starr on May 15, 2014 at 8:40pm

Such a generous blog De Villo. Thought I responded but not seeing it here. It went something like 'you know more about my work than i do'. You also challenge me to think more about the marks and words. Thank you. 

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