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Visual Poetry, Language, and Boundaries

July 2, 2009

 Guillaume Apollinaire


My first exposure to visual poetry came a few years ago with the anthology Writing To Be Seen: An Anthology of Later 20th Century Visio-Textual Art. Carol Stetser’s work is the first featured and it blew me away. I found myself agreeing with her statement in “The Color of Three”: “Language is important not only because it conveys our thoughts, but also because it shapes them. Our view of the universe is inherent in the structure of our language…Language sets the boundaries of our lives.” The role of poets is to shake up these boundaries when they become rigid, to open up new vistas in which our thoughts can roam. Visual poetry is one more way to do this and, at times, may be more effective because the manipulation of space in unusual ways in regard to language explodes our familiar language patterns in its sheer strangeness.  

This week, I picked up an anthology of poetry and randomly turned to the work of Guillaume Apollinaire and read “Il Pleut,” a poem I’d not read in a while. It made me think of visual poetry once again and the possibilities inherent in such a medium. I wanted to post his poem for Poetry Friday, and, while looking for links, found this video inspired by the poem. The manipulation of time and space in relation to language is beautiful and moving. The video may or may not count as an instance of visual poetry, but it does attest to the power that such poetry can have in creating new avenues of expression for others. 

 Introduction to Carol Stetser’s Work

Article with Text of “Il Pleut,” English Translation, and Commentary

This week Poetry Friday is hosted by Tabatha A. Yeatts. Check out all the other cool poetry links.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 4, 2009 2:00 am

    Il Pleut
    Melissa, I found this fasinating yet harder to grasp in some ways. The English translation was very helpful,and the commentary. How interesting that the “sorrow, regret” leads to new adventures, etc. I believe that this is very true in life.

    • July 4, 2009 4:02 pm

      Re: Il Pleut
      I would agree that it’s harder to understand. 🙂 A lot of times I just let things wash over me, appreciate how fascinating or beautiful they are, and sometimes understanding does or doesn’t come intuitively or in linear form. A lot of the visual poetry (especially someone like Carol Stetser) requires analysis in order to fully appreciate it. We don’t have time to study everything we read, though, so it’s nice to simply let it give what it can in the time we have and save more detailed study for the things that speak the most to us and naturally give us the passion to go further.
      I’m glad you enjoyed this, though, and I’m glad the commentary was helpful. (And the English is *always* helpful–I didn’t post either version of the poem here b/c I wasn’t sure about the copyright laws on this. I couldn’t find a version in a “commons” form able to be posted to a blog.) Love you. 🙂

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