Poetry in Pictures

I will admit that I am writing this without any research, but I wanted to get this idea down before I forgot it. In class today we talked about language, and someone brought up that people think in words, and Professor Smith talked about writing poetry in a language that is yours and is not yours. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think in pictures and words. The way I’ve explained my brain in the past is that it’s like going to the TV section of Best Buy and there’s a different station on every single screen, but you can see all of them at once. There’s a screen that has all the words I’m hearing, there’s a screen that has my thoughts as words on it, there’s a screen that has whatever song lyrics that are stuck in my head on it, there’s a screen that has whatever I’m seeing, a screen with the picture representations of whatever I’m thinking of, and so on. It’s very crowded and chaotic. However, if people can think in pictures, could we write poetry in pictures? We write books in pictures (graphic novels).

I’m not talking about paintings or photographs because those are stationary in a way that poetry is not. I mean could poetry exist as a visual representation? I think that it could. Literacy is so much more than most people realize. It’s possible to be literate in more than just languages. Coding is a great example of something that isn’t a traditional language, but is something you can be literate in. Another example is graphic novels. Those take a completely different type of literacy to read. The most abstract example I will give in memes. Some people can look at a picture and find the humor behind it because they are “literate” in memes while someone else will just see a random picture.

Going off of these different types of literacy, I wonder what poetry would look like if it were all in pictures. Because people can understand graphic novels, it’s possible! I think that this idea might look like a comic you’d see in a newspaper, but vertical instead of horizontal and more abstract than cartoon. I’m not sure that any of this made sense, but if anyone knows of some completely visual poems, I would be so interested in reading them!

2 Replies to “Poetry in Pictures”

  1. I think you’d enjoy paging through some zines! I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of those; they’re these small, independently made “magazines” (a lot of them can fit in the palm of your hand, though) that usually integrate art and text together via cutouts, art, etc. I think that they might have your perfect blend, depending on the one that you pick up!

  2. You may know them, but I wanna point you towards two artists who try a very similar thing to what you describe here.
    Evan Cohen (https://wetflakeybark.tumblr.com/) creates one-page graphic panels that have a very clear continuity from one panel to the next, but also makes heavy use of surrealism and poetic symbols. It’s very close to the very abstract “poetry in pictures” you talk about. Evan Cohen does use words sparingly, though.
    The second artist who uses a very similar method is Woshibai, (www.instagram.com/woshibaii/?hl=en) who also illustrates very surreal narratives that go from ordinary to purely symbolic. Woshibai doesn’t use any words, however, and it ends up being mysterious what’s being said.

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