Old 05-07-2005, 10:06 AM   #1
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Question Illustrated Poetry

Do other people have a problem with illustrated poetry?

The image to me is frequently so strong that it drowns out the poetry. When the poetry is superimposed over the image my initial response is that of slight confusion and that one is in the way of the other. If the image precedes the poem the distraction is not so great and it can clearly set a mood/provide a counterpoint to the words, but it can also be oddly irritating in that in can preempt the readers own imagination to some extent.

I tend to read and write words with visual images developing like mini dramas in my mind so it seems odd that I do not appear to have the capacity to appreciate these works as I should.

My wife who is an educational psychologist says it is because a lot of people and more men than women have problems processing different types of sensory information simultaneously.

What do you think ?

What is good illustrated poetry and how do you recognise it?
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Old 05-07-2005, 11:36 AM   #2
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I'm often slack/easily distracted in experiencing poetry so I personally prefer illustrated and shorter poems because I can view them all at once. Lengthy pieces do not hold my attention for very long unless it is rich in imagery and texture.

One aspect of an illustrated poem shouldn't distract from the other. The words should become the art rather than sitting on top of a photo. The original image before adding text shouldn't be too strong to begin with and the same goes with the text. I see some illustrated poems with too much text or lettering that stands out so much that it seems as if it were shouting the poem.

So I believe both the photo and text should be understated while seperate, but once amalgamated, the result should be one strong image.

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Old 05-07-2005, 11:47 AM   #3
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i am just the opposite of neo. i instinctively dislike illustrated poetry.

i can not remember even one good poem that i did not feel lost something of itself when it was superimposed over a picture.

i think a picture, especially as background, cheapens the words in many ways. it disallows the reader's natural inclination to form his own picture, which is what poetry is for, in my mind. it distracts full attention from the words, and the emotions that may be there. it forces an image onto the reader in a way that makes me feel the poet is not capable of doing it with words alone.

i know i am a purist, and that my views of illustrated poetry are beveled because of that. and being a teacher, i also realize that "visual learners" benefit from any stimuli in that direction. i simply find illustrated poetry impure, a view that i do not claim as correct, only personal.

and if the poetry is poor, nothing matters to me. then, i'd rather see the photo alone.
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Old 05-07-2005, 12:54 PM   #4
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I tend to dislike superimposed text, because it's a very difficult thing to do well. Most of the times, before you even start reading the poem, the impression given by the conflict between words and images is already negative.

What I instinctively do on my illustrated poems is to look for that neutral zone where text and image can complement each other without competing. I'm not talking about simpling moving the text to an empty expansion of sky, for example. I look for a place outside the image's breathing space, where both can be confortably appreciated. (eg.: "I tremble", Blue-Green Blues, Fernando Pessoa)

When I can't find that confort zone, I rather keep the poem and the illustration as separate entities, as I'm doing with the Al-Gharb series. Were they to be published on a chapbook, the layout I would want for them would be the poem's text and the corresponding photograph on facing pages.

There are exceptions, obviously. Neo does superimposing extremely well, as does Angeline, because they're aware that the words themselves are graphic elements, they can be part of the image's composition. That's what I tried to do as well in Neverending Signs - where the image was never meant to be "read" as a separate element from the poem. And then there are poems such as "hear my name..." - where the words are the illustration.
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Old 05-07-2005, 01:26 PM   #5
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Illustrated poems is IMnsHO not just poetry with an apt picture attached to it. If that is the case, then it does what Pat says, it cheapens ethe words. If what you want to say can hold it's own, then let it. If illustration is just ornamentary, then to hell wiuth it.

It is when the combination of the two, the application of graphical presentation and illustrative images or symbols, in fact changes the very core of the text that it becomes a good illustrated poem. If you can separate the text from the image and it still reads the same, gives you the same story, then I don't feel it was done right. The artwork must be a part of the art.

And by being that, it is no longer a poem. It is a standalone category of art.

An illustrated poem is no different from a song, where poetry and music is combined. Even reading a poem out loud tranforms it into another category of art, where you combine poetry with vocal performance. It's pretty much like music - it's the sender that sets the style, the tone and the emphasis, not the reciever. I dabble in the field of illustrated poetry once in a while. I always tro to make sure that the combination of the two medias adds at least one dimension to the finished product. Not saying I always make it tho.

Saying that illustrations obfuscates the poetry is like saying the melody is obfuscating the words in a song. Which could be true. But only if it's a bad song.

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Old 05-07-2005, 01:34 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Liar
Illustrated poems is IMnsHO not just poetry with an apt picture attached to it. If that is the case, then it does what Pat says, it cheapens ethe words. If what you want to say can hold it's own, then let it. If illustration is just ornamentary, then to hell wiuth it.

It is when the combination of the two, the application of graphical presentation and illustrative images or symbols, in fact changes the very core of the text that it becomes a good illustrated poem. If you can separate the text from the image and it still reads the same, gives you the same story, then I don't feel it was done right. The artwork must be a part of the art.

And by being that, it is no longer a poem. It is a standalone category of art.

An illustrated poem is no different from a song, where poetry and music is combined. Even reading a poem out loud tranforms it into another category of art, where you combine poetry with vocal performance. It's pretty much like music - it's the sender that sets the style, the tone and the emphasis, not the reciever. I dabble in the field of illustrated poetry once in a while. I always tro to make sure that the combination of the two medias adds at least one dimension to the finished product. Not saying I always make it tho.

Saying that illustrations obfuscates the poetry is like saying the melody is obfuscating the words in a song. Which could be true. But only if it's a bad song.

#L
Creator of illustrated poems.
I completely agree. When I said there are situations when I rather keep the text and the illustration as separate entities, I meant that as separate graphical entities. At the core, they're obviously very much connected - otherwise, what's the point?
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Old 05-07-2005, 02:27 PM   #7
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Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by ishtat
Do other people have a problem with illustrated poetry?

The image to me is frequently so strong that it drowns out the poetry. When the poetry is superimposed over the image my initial response is that of slight confusion and that one is in the way of the other. If the image precedes the poem the distraction is not so great and it can clearly set a mood/provide a counterpoint to the words, but it can also be oddly irritating in that in can preempt the readers own imagination to some extent.

I tend to read and write words with visual images developing like mini dramas in my mind so it seems odd that I do not appear to have the capacity to appreciate these works as I should.
. . .

What do you think ?

What is good illustrated poetry and how do you recognise it?
Practically, I often have trouble reading superimposed words. Unless done very well they don't seem to display well on my screen. In terms of placement I like the words below the image if they are separate.

Here's a question. Do you write the poem first and then look for/create the image, or do you start with the picture and write words to fit?
I have done both, but it seems more natural to write the words first. - An "illustrated poem" vs a "poemized picture"? - Unless done very well I think you can tell the difference. It's not like a song (do you write the words or the music first) because there the finished product is still an aural art form, while the words of the poem are not (usually) visual art, IMO.
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Old 05-07-2005, 04:27 PM   #8
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Agree with Pat. Arguably since poetry is printed it has aspects of a visual media, and in haiku, some word play is in the componets of the character's. In the West, sight rhyme, enjambent are visual componets, not aural. But the focus is on the words.

I dissagree with Liar's analogy. A song is music and lyrics, not poetry, for the most part, what makes good song lyrics does not always make good poetry, and vice-versa. It is possible, not probable. I shudder to think what either the "Waste Land" or "Stopping by Woods..." two great poems would sound like set to music, if it was well done, the music itself would begin to define how you interpret the words, restricting the possibilties of meanings.

With the same line of reasoning, I feel the addition of picture to words hinders the same possibilties of meanings, perhaps even more so. Poetry (if I understand) relies on image, relies on metaphor, the addition of picture makes it too easy not to use the better words, and seems restictive of the metaphor.

I have only seen one illustrated poem here where the words co-existed with the picture to a comforable level, and it that case the picture was slightly better than the words.

I do not like this pictory, I cannot hear, nor can I see
This pictory

BTW my illustrated songbook of Emily Dickenson is one sale in the lobby.
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Old 05-07-2005, 04:30 PM   #9
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A few years ago, I had never seen what we now call illustrated poetry. Rybka was the only poet here doing innovative (to me at the time) work with spacing so that the poem was as much visual art as "poem." Then I discovered a site called Born Magazine, where poets were working with visual artists and musicians to create what I think of as digital performance art. It intriqued me--the idea of mixing words and images to create art. Around that same time Senna Jawa suggested using Mictosoft Paint to creat images to accompany poems. I started doing that and Neo, Eve, Lauren, and smithpeter were all discovering it here at the same time. It has been an adventure, an exploration.

I don't think of illustrated poetry in quite the same way I do non-illustrated. I don't think it's worth even writing one unless the image and text work together, enhance each other. I don't know that I'm always successful at that (in fact, I know I'm not lol), but I think that should always be the goal. And Patrick is spot on--if the poem's not good to begin with, no picture will make it better, good as that image may be.

To me it's just relaxing, a fun thing to do. I certainly don't consider myself a visual artist--I'm a writer. Still, I find the act of placing text on a graphic makes me think about the poem in a different way, makes my writing more economical and fitted to the illustration. I wonder if others have found this to be true? In that sense, for me illustrating poetry has helped my growth as a writer overall--and overall I think experimentation is a good thing.

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Old 05-07-2005, 04:32 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angeline
A few years ago, I had never seen what we now call illustrated poetry. Rybka was the only poet here doing innovative (to me at the time) work with spacing so that the poem was as much visual art as "poem." Then I discovered a site called Born Magazine, where poets were working with visual artists and musicians to create what I think of as digital performance art. It intriqued me--the idea of mixing words and images to create art. Around that same time Senna Jawa suggested using Mictosoft Paint to creat images to accompany poems. I started doing that and Neo, Eve, Lauren, and smithpeter were all discovering it here at the same time. It has been an adventure, an exploration.

I don't think of illustrated poetry in quite the same way I do non-illustrated. I don't think it's worth even writing one unless the image and text work together, enhance each other. I don't know that I'm always successful at that (in fact, I know I'm not lol), but I think that should always be the goal. And Patrick is spot on--if the poem's not good to begin with, no picture will make it better, good as that image may be.

To me it's just relaxing, a fun thing to do. I certainly don't consider myself a visual artist--I'm a writer. Still, I find the act of placing text on a graphic makes me think about the poem in a different way, makes my writing more economical and fitted to the illustration. I wonder if others have found this to be true? In that sense, for me illustrating poetry has helped my growth as a writer overall--and overall I think experimentation is a good thing.

Hello, and I think it was yours, I was refering to, Ghosts I think it was called
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Old 05-07-2005, 04:37 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angeline
Still, I find the act of placing text on a graphic makes me think about the poem in a different way, makes my writing more economical and fitted to the illustration.

With the same line of reasoning, I feel the addition of picture to words hinders the same possibilties of meanings, perhaps even more so. Poetry (if I understand) relies on image, relies on metaphor, the addition of picture makes it too easy not to use the better words, and seems restictive of the metaphor.

Outside of the word "economical", which you should be doing anyway, does this contradict what I said?
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Old 05-07-2005, 05:17 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone
Hello, and I think it was yours, I was refering to, Ghosts I think it was called
Hello and thank you.

Some photos just seem to lend themselves to illustration--I was looking through old family photos and stared at that one and realized it would work perfectly with a poem I had already written.

In regards to your other comment, I do think we are in agreement. Writing should be economical--or I guess the better word (imo) is "precise." I don't think one necessarily needs fewer words, one needs to find the right words, though having said that I admit that finding the right ones generally results in using fewer words. I don't always see my way to this when I'm writing though--even sometimes when I'm editing. When I'm doing an illustrated poem though and trying to figure out where to place the words for the best effect, I find myself cutting the poem back in ways I wouldn't otherwise have thought to do. It usually makes the poem better on or off an illustration.
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Old 05-07-2005, 05:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone
With the same line of reasoning, I feel the addition of picture to words hinders the same possibilties of meanings, perhaps even more so. Poetry (if I understand) relies on image, relies on metaphor, the addition of picture makes it too easy not to use the better words, and seems restictive of the metaphor.

Outside of the word "economical", which you should be doing anyway, does this contradict what I said?
And that is why the two should enhance each other--if one overpowers the other it doesn't work. Anyway, don't you think that a poem that is totally open to interpretation maybe isn't saying much of anything to begin with?
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Old 05-07-2005, 05:26 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone
I dissagree with Liar's analogy. A song is music and lyrics, not poetry, for the most part, what makes good song lyrics does not always make good poetry, and vice-versa.
No sir, you don't disagree with me. I guess I just didn't make my point clear enough. The only thing divides us is that you seem to put a holy monkier on the word "poetry" in the same way that creationists separate humans and other animals when in fact we're all just slight variations on the same theme.

What is the difference between the poetry you mean and lyrics? The purpose. Point blank, that's it. The purpose and nothing else. The purpose for words written as poetry is to stand alone. The purpose for words written for music is to exist in that context. it can laen on the music, draw metaphors and moods from it, omit other things that a poem could not leave out. The two compliments each other. The purpose, finally, of words written for a visual presentation accompaining a specific graphic design or illustration is to exist in another context. Therefore they are written differently. That's all. If there is any other difference I'd be happier than a pig in mud if you could point them out for me.
Quote:
It is possible, not probable.
What is? Not following you there.

Quote:
I shudder to think what either the "Waste Land" or "Stopping by Woods..." two great poems would sound like set to music, if it was well done, the music itself would begin to define how you interpret the words, restricting the possibilties of meanings.
Who said you should put music to those? Certainly not me. Putting music to existing poems not intended for music (or for that matter illustrating poems not intended for explicit visual presentation) is IMO to violate the intention of the original artist. It changes the thing, and I don't dig that.

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Old 05-07-2005, 05:32 PM   #15
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Oh and another little thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone
Arguably since poetry is printed...
Very arguably. What is the preferred core media really? These days poetry is mostly printed. But what if it's read?



Just playing the argument game. Never mind me.
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Old 05-07-2005, 05:42 PM   #16
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Last but not least a little food for thought, and I have no idea wether I'm actually contradicting my previous statements or not, but I just thought of it, so bear witgh me:

Isn't writing a poem down, choosing where to break lines, break paragraphs, use of capital letters, spacing, stanza breaks and so on, an attempt to squeeze a poem into a visual frame? What separates that from superimposing it to an image, experimenting with colors and fonts and other weird effects, other than the degree of the tampering?

Thoughts, peeps?

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Old 05-07-2005, 06:11 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Liar
. . .

Isn't writing a poem down, choosing where to break lines, break paragraphs, use of capital letters, spacing, stanza breaks and so on, an attempt to squeeze a poem into a visual frame? What separates that from superimposing it to an image, experimenting with colors and fonts and other weird effects, other than the degree of the tampering?
. . .
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Old 05-07-2005, 06:16 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rybka
Convention
I went to a convention once. Crowded place, nice people, crappy sandwiches. Wasn't worth the time.


Ok, seriously then. It's a word. What did you mean by it?
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Old 05-07-2005, 07:31 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Liar
Last but not least a little food for thought, and I have no idea wether I'm actually contradicting my previous statements or not, but I just thought of it, so bear witgh me:

Isn't writing a poem down, choosing where to break lines, break paragraphs, use of capital letters, spacing, stanza breaks and so on, an attempt to squeeze a poem into a visual frame? What separates that from superimposing it to an image, experimenting with colors and fonts and other weird effects, other than the degree of the tampering?

Thoughts, peeps?

#L
Nothing separates it to my thinking--it's all about our perception, and while it's true that we can't help but bring our preconceived notions to whatever we read, it's always better to experience any art with an open mind. My best experiences in art and life have been unconventional.

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Old 05-07-2005, 07:51 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angeline
And that is why the two should enhance each other--if one overpowers the other it doesn't work. Anyway, don't you think that a poem that is totally open to interpretation maybe isn't saying much of anything to begin with?
No, what I am saying is a great poem will enable a wide audience to see different things in it, because it is the capabilty of meaning to different things to different people, it presents a frame. It also is multi-dimensional. Suppose we where to illustrate "Stopping by woods..." the picture paints it, we do not wonder what the covetous old bastard was up to, that dimension is gone.
The "Waste Land" the monster of the 20th century, what picture defines it, it is undefineable.
I have read alot of interpretations of it.
One sense also steals from the other. Your "Ghosts"? the picture was so good, I don't remember the poem.Is that a good thing to say, I don't remember the poem?

Of course if you had fun doing it, that counts for something.
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Old 05-07-2005, 07:55 PM   #21
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There's one very important element you're forgetting, 1201. All what you said may apply to some figurative illustration, but most visual art is as much subject to different interpretations as poetry.
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Old 05-07-2005, 08:06 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Liar
No sir, you don't disagree with me. I guess I just didn't make my point clear enough. The only thing divides us is that you seem to put a holy monkier on the word "poetry" in the same way that creationists separate humans and other animals when in fact we're all just slight variations on the same theme.

What is the difference between the poetry you mean and lyrics? The purpose. Point blank, that's it. The purpose and nothing else. The purpose for words written as poetry is to stand alone. The purpose for words written for music is to exist in that context. it can laen on the music, draw metaphors and moods from it, omit other things that a poem could not leave out. The two compliments each other. The purpose, finally, of words written for a visual presentation accompaining a specific graphic design or illustration is to exist in another context. Therefore they are written differently. That's all. If there is any other difference I'd be happier than a pig in mud if you could point them out for me.
What is? Not following you there.


Who said you should put music to those? Certainly not me. Putting music to existing poems not intended for music (or for that matter illustrating poems not intended for explicit visual presentation) is IMO to violate the intention of the original artist. It changes the thing, and I don't dig that.

#L
The purpose for words written for music is to exist in that context, thus they are called lyrics.
Want a new word, for pictures with words, "pictory"; we could have talking pictures next. The more you put in, the less the audience does, I think McLuhan said something to that effect.
If I say the word "blue" in certain contexts in can have a multitude of meaning, if the background is blue, search over, it is the colour blue.
And Liar, if you looked at my stuff, you would know I don't geneflect at some so-called holy altar of poetry.
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Old 05-07-2005, 08:08 PM   #23
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Quote:
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There's one very important element you're forgetting, 1201. All what you said may apply to some figurative illustration, but most visual art is as much subject to different interpretations as poetry.
Addressed by McLuhan, as above.
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Old 05-07-2005, 08:35 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone
The purpose for words written for music is to exist in that context, thus they are called lyrics.
Want a new word, for pictures with words, "pictory"; we could have talking pictures next. The more you put in, the less the audience does, I think McLuhan said something to that effect.
If I say the word "blue" in certain contexts in can have a multitude of meaning, if the background is blue, search over, it is the colour blue.
And Liar, if you looked at my stuff, you would know I don't geneflect at some so-called holy altar of poetry.
Fair enough then, let's label creative text depending on why it was created. "Pictory" will du just fine.

But you know, the word "blue" has a limiting context even if it doesn't have a blue background attached to it. It is called "the other words that are placed around it". If we talk about a regular non-visual poem, every line is defined and intepreted in contect and relation to the other lines. A visual element, say a background color, is just another line, if you know what I mean. I can write a poem... sorry... a pictory with a blue background, where the text makes it obvious that the image was for instance an ironic counterpoint to the text. Or maybe the sum of the two balances out, so that you are more open for your own intepretations than you would had been without the illustrative element. But yeah, most of the time it's a guide to a certain intepretation of the text. Not sure that that is such an automatically bad thing though.

Oh, and your stuff is among those that I deliberately seek out, simply because it is good stuff. But it do have me a little confued as to your stand here. Because you work as much with visual presentation guiding the intepretation in some of your poems as I do. Only you use plain text, and I use Photoshop.

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Old 05-07-2005, 08:52 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone
No, what I am saying is a great poem will enable a wide audience to see different things in it, because it is the capabilty of meaning to different things to different people, it presents a frame. It also is multi-dimensional. Suppose we where to illustrate "Stopping by woods..." the picture paints it, we do not wonder what the covetous old bastard was up to, that dimension is gone.
The "Waste Land" the monster of the 20th century, what picture defines it, it is undefineable.
I have read alot of interpretations of it.
One sense also steals from the other. Your "Ghosts"? the picture was so good, I don't remember the poem.Is that a good thing to say, I don't remember the poem?

Of course if you had fun doing it, that counts for something.
Yes, it's a good thing to say--you responded as a reader in a way that worked for you, apparently very well because I wrote that poem months ago and it made an impression on you. As the creator of Dear Ghosts, I succeeded in communicating to you.

I would never argue that every poem could potentially be illustrated successfully--and I agree that many poems would be diminished by the limitation an image would impose. I'd no more try to illustrate The Wasteland than I'd try to write a sonnet that defines Picasso's Guernica. But why generalize? Some illustrated poems are good. Why dismiss any genre of an artform as having the potential to effectively communicate, to be a good experience for a reader (or viewer).

And I never discount fun.
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