Karenina.it Theories: Visual Poetry


 Image: Thomas Bell



Statement by Jesse Glass on Visual Poetry As Charm, As Curse


I think what most fascinates me in working with language is the physicality of the word.  Curses and charms promise real cause and effect relationships between private, ritualistic action (directed, interior imaginings) and some result in our shared “real” world.  The use of offensive words and processes–scatology, blasphemy, writing with one’s own saliva and blood etc.–reinforce, through transgressive action, the aggressive–and therefore reified–word.  (A good example of this is the ancient Rune-binding work told of in Egil’s Saga.  Runes were not good magic unless they were made to “live” by the application of the Rune-worker’s blood. Once embodied in this manner they lived in much the same way as an eagle ready to pick the eyes out of its prey.)  Visual poetry threatens at all times to break the membrane between word as word and word as living thing set loose among us.  The visual poem itself is the battleground between these two dynamics, and often the scars are visible.  The artist/poet attempts to create some kind of balance between these forces—but it is illusory: the stasis of a drawn bow.  The artifact itself floats above this conflict, and offers itself to the eyes of the reader as both a memorial and a critique of the process.


In addition, my visual poems are performative texts that attempt to create some change in our shared reality through the ritual of decipherment and action.  The examples I’ve sent are not as radical as the ones of which I speak, but were created along the same lines.  Please consider the “Gris-Gris” of Artaud as a perfect theoretical embodiment of a visual poem.


[Sent to Kathy Ernst for a Visual Poetry Workshop 10/2002.]