More Than Words (1991), or, Some Pictures Too

More Than Words (1991), or, Some Pictures Too

Hi, everybody! I hope you all got to do something fun this weekend–watched your favorite movie or played catch with some friends or went antiquing bought a very nice monkey's paw.

My weekend was covered in ink. As you maybe already know, I am not only writing poetry this summer, but I am also making visual art from that poetry in the form of block prints. Now that I have a nice stack of poems going, it is time for me to really start thinking about how I want to present them, visually.

I have talked, likely ad-nauseam, about my writing process and my Big Thoughts on poetry and what I have learned about myself and all that fun stuff. There are a couple things that I haven't talked much about yet. First of all, I haven't talked about all the crazy stuff that has been happening to me ever since I went antiquing and bought that real nice monkey's paw a few weeks back. I'll get to that later though. The other thing I haven't talked much about yet is the visual art component of my work this summer. I am not just writing all these poems; I am also printing them in a block-printed chapbook collection, and making poetry broadsides with a select number of them, and maybe some other fun things here and there.

The visual aspect of my work has always been tremendously important to me. I have always been a writer, first and foremost, but I have experimented with various different artistic mediums, and have always loved the possibility of what you can do when you splice together all those different mediums. How does a poem change in different presentations? From screen to book page to small part of a larger broadside composition. When I write poems, I see them, and I want to let you see them as well.

And to help you see them, I have decided the best visual medium is one that I picked up in earnest roughly four months ago: linocut blockprinting. I am not going to over explain the artform too much, but feel free to read up on it here if you wish. Essentially, what I do is cut a design into a piece of linoleum, cover that linoleum in ink, press that linoleum block into a piece of paper, and voila, I get an inked version of the design that I had carved into the linoleum. It is a really beautiful art form that is both Unforgiving and Forgiving. Unforgiving in that once you carve a mistake into the lino, it's there. Either cover it up or find a use for the mistake. Forgiving, though, in that just about anything looks pretty cool from a linocut block print, even the simplest or most clumsily carved designs. That is part of what I like about using the form for this particular project. So much of my work right now is about becoming closer to the things that we hold sacred. Few art forms, to me, make the connection between art and artist feel more close. There is an intimacy to carving out letters and image, laying out type set, and manually printing, an intimacy that is not quite the same as typing some poems up and sending them to a printer (which is also valid!).

Oh, and everything is mirrored! That is one other thing about lino printing that can cause some problems. Especially with text.

As I alluded to earlier, all of my creative work lives in multiple realms, in terms of their exact form. Even if no one ever wrote the screenplay, there is a movie in every song. A poem in every painting. A mural in every book. You don't always get to make the mural of your book. I am very happy to have the chance to make the mural of this one.

They are but humble beginning test prints, but please enjoy some pictures of some stuff I was working on this weekend. Still need to fix a lot of stuff in both of these, but they are coming along. Carved out a poem that I have previously shared here, and made a snake for a future broadside for the following poem (also a first draft), titled "A Poem For Snakes"

Are you trying to hide/ in the grass or is the grass/something else to you, an entity/ hiding you despite your desires?///We have painted you poorly/in folktales, in G.I. Joe, in/ Taylor Swift music videos/ but maybe you are not/lurking, waiting to betray/ anyone's sense of security///Maybe you simply cannot help/ but to be unseen? Are you hiding?/ Or was your stealth bestowed upon you/against your wishes///Like a fallen tree trunk/ atop a bed of daisies?
Here is the actual carved linoleum, all inked up after a print. 

Testing out the snake lino. Still need to fix some fine details and use a bit more ink and it will be ready for an actual finished product soon.
Just using up some excess ink and messing around with some composition ideas. I think the snakes will look neat patterned!
And here is a short poemed I tried carving onto a 5 x 7 linoleum pad. It still needs some work. That dang 'g' in 'gnats' needs fixing. And I want to do a bit more in the background. Doing a lot of text is difficult because you have to remember everything you carve will appear mirrored when printed. So getting it on the lino backwards requires tracing and using transfer paper and all that stuff. Would have used a bigger lino pad next time!