Lyricism and Vispo

poetry / writing

I’ll be honest: I much prefer lyricism in poetry than what’s in vogue at the present.  We’ve seen it all over. Deracinated, denuded verse.  Poetry that reads like prose (the “prose poem”). There’s also the stuff influenced by the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poets. What these sub-genres have in common is they don’t swing or sing—at least to me.  There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s just another approach, as valid as epic poetry or flarf. However, a lot of this work leaves me damn cold.

Vispo (visual poetry) and concrete poetry, on the surface, seem to pursue the same basic goals. These sub-genres eschew lyricism.  This poetry looks like it was produced by a machine, and of course it was! (Back then, the typewriter was a pretty radical piece of technology.)  The twentieth century concrete poets were, in a sense, mirroring the mechanization of industrial civilization through their manipulation of clean lines and flawless text.  Here, the human element is sometimes lacking, and the poetry isn’t always singing.

What changes the equation is the advent of the computer.  Today, we can make vispo and concrete poetry sing, with vibrant colors and exciting graphics and imagery. Our textual work can be incredibly kinetic, moving all over the page like birds in flight.  And we can do this all at the click of a mouse.