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The visual has always been an important means of communication, from caveman paintings, to graphic novels, to IKEA instruction manuals. We know it fits in somewhere with poetry, beginning with how poets and artists have always looked lovingly upon one another, and ending somewhere more uncharted. It’s been proposed that the use of illustration with poetry is redundant, but what this forum is interested in is not translating the words, but a much wider vision: illustration as a kind of poetic form. Poetry and poets who interact with the visual has limitless implications, from traditional use of the comic-strip and comic book, to a much more experimental use of text and image. I wish to go boldly, willingly, into Poetry Comics, and see what people are doing out there. I’m not entirely concerned with defining what I mean by Poetry Comics, but rather seeing how many tiny silver arrows we can launch at it. And perhaps how many it can launch back at us.

Every month we will look at a new artist/poet(s). They will share some of what they love to look at and read. Let’s call it Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Poetry Comic. Let’s call it WTF is a Poetry Comic. Let’s call it The Fallacy of the Mental Image. Let’s begin.

We’re going to start with the amazing poet and artist, Sommer Browning, who has done several drawings for several poems by Noah Eli Gordon’s series of poems called “The Problem”



Links For More of Sommer Browning:

Visual Poetry Review of Thomas Hummel’s chapbook Point and Line to Plane(Projective Industries, 2009) in Octopus Magazine.

Sommer’s book page with a poem and a comic.

Sommer’s Twitter account.

Sweet-ass Things Sommer Browning Loves:

Cartoonist Victoria Roberts.

Author Robert Benchley. This 75 year old comedy short is the British Office’s equivalent. It might take a little old-fashioned patience to enjoy, but the awkwardness and non sequitur humor feels very modern to me.


Sommer Browning writes poems, draws comics and tells jokes. She is the author of Either Way I’m Celebrating (Birds, LLC; 2011), a collection of poems and comics. She also has three chapbooks out, most recently THE BOWLING (Greying Ghost, 2010) with Brandon Shimoda. With Julia Cohen she curates The Bad Shadow Affair, a reading series in Denver.

Noah Eli Gordon is the author of several books, most recently The Source (Futurepoem, 2011). Gordon is the co-publisher of Letter Machine Editions, and an Assistant Professor in the MFA program in Creative Writing at The University of Colorado–Boulder.

These two poems and illustrations are from the forthcoming collection, 62 Problems (1913 Press, 2014).

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Bianca is a poet and artist, and is the author of the chapbook Someone Else's Wedding Vows from Argos Books. She has been published in such magazines as Best American Poetry 2011, Conduit, and American Poetry Review. She is the cofounder and editor of Monk Books. Her next book, Antigonick, a new kind of comic book, and collaboration with Anne Carson, will be out in 2012 from New Directions. She lives in Brooklyn with the poet Ben Pease and their cat Commander Riker.

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  • W Craghead November 2, 2011, 10:20 am

    Sorry, not really comics – more like illustrations.  for better try , ,

    I’m glad you’re doing this though!

  • Derik Badman November 2, 2011, 10:27 am

    And certainly don’t miss Warren’s own work especially his fabulous Apollinaire book How to Be Everywhere:

  • Andrea Beltran November 2, 2011, 10:46 am

    Enjoyed this. Love the idea and look forward to this series.

  • Bianca November 2, 2011, 11:49 am

    You should read the actual post, and you’d see we’re interested experimenting with the comic book genre, so it’s kind of irrelevant to say it’s “not really comics.”  Sommer Browning is an amazing poet who also does amazing comics (who we are very proud to have on thethe!) and so HERE SHE IS! experimenting with poetry and the comics together. Be prepared for a lot of different kinds of poetry comics that you’ll not recognize right away as traditional comics. And be prepared for some that do. 

  • W Craghead November 2, 2011, 12:23 pm

    I’ve read the post, thanks.

    One interesting way to experiment with comics (which are not a “genre”) is to actually do comics.  I’m sure the artists are great and I even like another piece on the site you did with some Dickenson text, but the stuff in this post is illustration, not comics.  Adding an image above some words does not make comics. and there’s nothing wrong with illustration!

    You should take a look at the links I left, you’ll see I’m interested in anything other than traditional comics.  There’s a growing body of work that embraces poetry/comics and you might find some good ideas out there already.

    Look, I don’t meant to give you a hard time and I’m glad you’re pursuing this but it’s chafing to see things like the above touted as poetry comics when they clearly aren’t. I look forward to seeing more.

  • W Craghead November 2, 2011, 1:09 pm

    oops, computer error. Sorry

  • Anonymous November 2, 2011, 1:50 pm

    hi–not sure why some of your comments have disappeared. nobody’s deleting them, i promise :)

    i’m looking into it. sometimes disqus (our comment clinet) acts funky.

  • Bianca November 2, 2011, 3:20 pm

    well, it’s a fun and worthy discussion to open up! 

  • Paul K. Tunis November 2, 2011, 6:51 pm

    On the topic of illustration vs. comics.

    My personal, bare-bones definition of comics is sequential art, something I take from Scott McCloud.

    However, there is a tradition of single panel art with separate text that falls under the popular heading of “comics.” Mostly in newspapers, these include Far Side, Non Sequitur, and (shutter) Family Circus, to name a few. Though, on the flip side, if the same were found in The New Yorker or Time magazine  they would be labeled a cartoon. Words, for good or bad, aren’t defined by individuals, but ultimately the culture, which is why whenever an impossibly embarrassing accident befalls somebody, my family says they got “pauled.”

    Regardless of what’s what and what isn’t, I’m mostly just excited by the conversation. That there are enough people excited enough to talk about it makes me feel less isolated.

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