Comics Poetry

The Symposium of Important Things

It’s not the poem, it’s not the drawing – it’s a new beast altogether!

Bianca StoneThe New York Comics Symposium

I love comics. And I love poetry. Recently, I have been concerned I might have to ditch one in favour of the other at the start of NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month). However, when I look into the realm of comics poetry, I am reminded that these two forms can talk to each other and create something new.

Some time ago, I went to a comics poetry workshop with Chrissy Williams at The Poetry School. It was a wonderful day spent mixing classic poems, internet articles, our own abstract artwork and images from a stack of Iron Man comics. We loosened up our concepts of both poetry and comics and opened the door to the realm of possibility that is “comics poetry”.

The workshop took place at The Poetry Cafe, which at the time housed the exhibition for Over The Line: An Introduction To Poetry Comics. As we worked, we were surrounded by an incredible array of approaches to this exciting new form.
In his comments about Over The LineAlan Moore describes it as a “breathtaking tango”:

This is that spine-tingling moment when two attractive and sophisticated forms, both admired for their rhythm and sense of timing, eye each other across the cultural dance floor. In Over The Line, at once an insightful introduction and a comprehensive showcase for the emerging phenomenon of Poetry Comics, Chrissy Williams and Tom Humberstone provide the best possible venue for what looks like being a breathtaking tango. I really can’t recommend this venture highly enough, and I’d advise you mark your card immediately.

The morning of the workshop, I got the time wrong and arrived an hour early. I sat in a cafe and made a few notes with a view to using them as material later in the day. When these simple statements were combined with the extraordinary figures and landscapes of the Iron Man comics, they took on deeper, more dramatic meanings.

The visual elements – the format, the images, the panelling or lack of it – transform the words, open them up to different meanings. The words, in turn, transform the images. The result is something greater than the sum of its parts – “a new beast altogether”.

Some wonderful online comics poetry resources: Ink Brick is a micro press for comics poetry. They bring out a print journal twice yearly and have a vibrant website. Check out Bianca Stone’s poetry comics site. She also curates comics poetry content for Chrissy Williams has edited 14 issues of Poetry and Comics, the result of collaborations between poets, writers and artists. You can read them all here.
As I read more about comics poetry, I notice that its practitioners are loathe to define it:

Our job as creators is to make work. I don’t really care whether something doesn’t “count” as comics poetry, because it could just be the first push into new territory, and hybrids and liminal things are always more interesting than those that cleave to orthodoxy.

Alexander RothmanWhat is Comics Poetry?

In this spirit, I look forward to pushing into new territory, both within my own work and within the exciting field that is comics poetry. I’ll be writing a poem a day during the month of April and I’ll be experimenting with comics poetry as I go. I hope some of you will join me!

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