Art & Poetry

This semester, I am in ENGL 426 with Rachel Hall. Basically, the entire class reads, edits and publishes the SUNY wide literary magazine called Gandy Dancer. For one of our assignments, we had to read the last edition of the magazine (Gandy Dancer 8.1) and come to class with thoughts, likes, dislikes, etc. One thing that I noticed in the magazine is that next to a lot of the poetry and fiction pieces were different art pieces. For example, the poem would be on the left page, and the painting would be on the right, so that way, visually, they are seen together.

This got me thinking about how much a visual image can change the tone and/or meaning of a poem. Paintings, photographs, sculptures, & sketches paired with the right poem, you have a completely different piece of art. I hadn’t realized at first that my interpretation of the poem was altered with the image right next to it. There was one poem called Motion Sickness by Mitchell Angelo, and it was paired with an abstract painting of bright colors like red, yellow, blue and white; they were in chunky lines that were spread all around the page. As my eyes were reading the poem, they would catch a glimpse of something in the painting, so I would take two seconds to look at the painting, and then continue reading. I hadn’t realized that the movement of the painting altered my perception of the poem.

Had I read the poem by itself, I cannot say that my interpretation would have been completely different; however, the painting brought the poem to life, if that makes sense. Similarly, how experimenting with the form of the poem changes how you perceive it. When a poet scatters words around a page, the visual effect of the words being scattered is meant to change the pacing of the poem, perhaps, but I believe it is also there to evoke some kind of emotion. The thing is, some of the images seemed to make no sense until you read the poem, and then look at the image again, and realize in some abstract way that they make sense together. In high school, I had a creative writing teacher that would assign extra credit to anyone who took a line of poetry and put it in an image to either have it make sense with the words or change the meaning. For example, someone took a poem that mentioned boots and had written the line on the bottom of the boot and then took a picture. Someone else had taken a poem about childhood and had written a line out in chalk on the sidewalk. I just find it really interesting how visual art like paintings, or photographs, or where something is written can alter the meaning of a poem. I kind of want to try pairing some of my poetry with different images and just see where it takes me. Does anyone else experiment with this?

One Reply to “Art & Poetry”

  1. I find it so interesting that Gandy Dancer – among other literary magazines, this is not a Gandy exclusive deal – puts submitted images and poems/prose/etc. next to one another with the implication that they go together. Largely those images were not composed for those literary pieces, and vice versa – couldn’t they change one another’s meanings for better or for worse as a result, with neither of the artists’ inputs?

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