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Lazy_Metaphors
03-24-2006, 08:33 AM
I was reading this brief article (http://www.lasvegascitylife.com/articles/2006/03/23/books_and_lit/books.txt) on poet Gillian Conoley, and a few lines stood out:


A professor of English at Sonoma State University in California, Conoley suggests readers shouldn't expect poems to behave like advertisements or newspaper stories. That is, we shouldn't expect poetry to be a totally transparent medium. Instead, we should look to verse for the thrill of discovering, as Conoley puts it, "language that doesn't behave in ways we've become accustomed to."


"I like the idea of anything coming into a poem," she adds, "whether it's a comic book, cartoon or video game. I'm especially interested in ideas about narrative and enchantment. My generation was hugely influenced by TV, which became a household fixture as I was growing up. And now my children are influenced by the Internet. I'm intrigued by the Internet's effect on narrative and consciousness. The Internet doesn't follow a straight sequence. It makes narrative bloom."

Most comics on shelves at the present take a hardline "prose" attitude to storytelling. It's a natural response, but sequential art is a more complicated language than much of its handling gives it credit for. Even now, linguists like Neil Cohn (http://emaki.net/) are still parsing the syntax to varied success. With such a reliance upon reader interpretation (See "Closure" in McCloud's "Understanding Comics") one could almost presuppose that poetry is a more natural textual structure to underlie the work. A good example is the "Alec" stories of Eddie Campbell, which has been a successful use of blend of prose narrative and poetic cadence - complementing the artwork, rather than explaining it.

Of course, some of our best comics are more outright about it. "Kabuki" is, of course, our most natural example, but also works like "A Disease of Language" by Moore and Campbell and some of the more abstract webcomics by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (http://www.e-merl.com/) - or even outright uses such as "A Softer World" (http://www.asofterworld.com/) and its imitators.

While I'm not suggesting that there's anything here that's superior to more traditionalist comics, there is something a bit more natural to the rhythm and flow of the work when a craftsman like Mack or Campbell is at the pen. One might suppose that it's a more integrated language, and by loosening the structure, it's a bit closer to our initial (primal?) text/visual language - when we're children, we of course do not differentiate. Text and Image are not only equally valid, but tend to coexist. It's only formal education that forces children to separate the two.

(Corollary: My roommate is an art therapist who has worked with emotionally troubled, sometimes mentally regressed teenagers, and comics have proven to be one of the most effective means of communication/expression with them.)

So, is there something going on here on a developmental level?

Rabbi Noculars
03-24-2006, 09:18 AM
So, is there something going on here on a developmental level?
Of course there is, Mikey. I'll get to it in a sec.
Something that surprised me about the article you quoted is that people expect poetry to be easy. People have grown accustomed to a pretty lyric, they have sacrificed meaning or experience for comfort. But that's the pop stuff, the Oprah stuff. We know that already, it happens in every medium. I wasn't surprised at the fact, but at the way the poet addressed it. I've never heard of this Gillian Conoly, but she seems to be saying all the right things:

"I like the idea of anything coming into a poem," she adds, "whether it's a comic book, cartoon or video game. I'm especially interested in ideas about narrative and enchantment."

So thanks for exposing me to that.
What has always frustrated me is that people say that they can't understand a poem, or they can't understand a piece like Finnegan's Wake, but really, anyone can. They are symbols, and while the author/artist may have intended one meaning, the reward comes from finding your own meaning, making your own connections. Anyone can find personal meaning in the abstract, but for some of us, the more literal does little to excite. Maybe it's a matter of taste, but I think it is that quality of seeing the world through warped and tinted lenses or through no lenses at all.
Now, your question:
Simple answer: yes. And it is also on the intuitive level as well. There is something going on in the act of interpreting symbols, be they words or pictures.
Is poetry a more natural fit for comics?
Not necessarily, but it is interesting to note how dialogue winds and twists its way through artwork, and how even the placement of the words can change your interpretation of the panel/page.
Making that connection: "what do these words have to do with these pictures" is what enhances the experience, and makes comics capable of transmitting information and even being more "poetic" than words or pictures alone.
I agree with your comparison of loose structure to our primal understanding. I think that there can be beauty in form as well, but simple and universal forms, symbols which have meaning to all of us on some level, and basic structures upon which we can impose the will of our imagination.

MACK!
03-26-2006, 11:10 PM
Thanks for this.
I like what you both are adding here.

And if you like Moore's Disease of Language, you may like WORD VIRUS by William S. Burroughs.

Both are amazing and overlap and build on some themes.

Lazy_Metaphors
03-28-2006, 12:04 AM
Hey, it's the local Rabbi, come to kick dirt in my face! Kidding, of course.

There's always a trend towards passive art, yes - I'll spare the community a lecture on impressionism or on Norman Rockwell - but comics is an inherently interactive medium. Stuart Moulthrop coined the term Interstitial Fiction (http://iat.ubalt.edu/moulthrop/essays/misadventure/) to discuss the similarities between comics and not film or prose, but video games. The way that the medium engages the mind at a basic level demands a greater level of participation (see McCloud on the topic of "Closure" - an idea which Cohn takes to task in his own ideas).

(Prez Rickard here - who is more the Burroughs man than I am - I'm more the
"new media" guy - knows this already, but I'm speaking to a general audience here, or attempting to. Clearly I'm going to ramble around the subject without a structure to my argument, but it's been a long day, and I'm not ready to write a thesis.)

I think the lack of consideration when it comes to poetry - and I'm as guilty of it as anyone - is that nobody's talking about it. I can't recall, before this, the last time I even heard it brought up (aside from a few girls I know personally, and the less said about their work, perhaps the better?) even amongst the more literary circles I poseur all up in (ha ha?). As a more abstract form, it's never been very approachable, but with prose slowly regaining ground as mass media (due to Oprah, religious angles, and movie tie-ins), it's become even more completely eclipsed.

I am using too many parentheses in this post.

In response to the latter half of your post, though, Doc Hollywood,I agree with you, naturally, in principle, but what I'm addressing here is an both an alteration of prose style in order to affect the cadence of the piece. It's a question of rhythm as well as abstraction. I'm divorcing the subject from the content of whatever comic we're discussing and talking about a formal concern.

While I'm yammering on, I thought I'd open the reader mailbag... I linked over to this thread on my site and a talented writer of my acquaintance named Spike weighed in on the subject. He's woefully underexposed to comics and, in my view, has biased himself against them based on a skewed perspective on the subject of what constitutes literary merit - frustratingly, he's also one of the best damned writers I know.

Here's what he said:


The Russian Formalists believed that the poetic effect was based on language 'estranging' itself, that is, calling attention to itself rather than attempting 'transparency'. I tend to agree.

The problem with comics is often too much explanation. For example, if you have a panel of the Fantastic Four crashing to Earth in a spaceship and then a caption saying "Meanwhile, the ship returned to Earth," you are being redundant. Older mainstream comics are especially bad at this, excessive and pointless narration. Thought balloons can have the same effect. (witness the Garfield thought balloon removal thing, making it funny).

I think some of the best comics effects come from image and word counterpointing or contrasting each other. If you have a panel of a child being beaten with the caption "My sixth birthday was especially memorable," that's a narrative in that one panel. The thing is you can do this almost randomly. You can take random sentences and random pictures and the mind will automatically try to force it to make sense.

But, if you have simply prose, and you write "A man entered the bar," that's an infinite number of men and an infinite number of bars depending on who's reading. This is why prose is just as 'interactive' as anything else - and even more so. I would argue that prose is more interactive than most video games. And this is why bad writers often overexplain - no one needs to know that someone's nose was "slightly aquiline" or something like that. Other bad writing advice is "be very descriptive". Actually all you really need to do is suggest description. The same goes for paintings. The Mona Lisa, for example, doesn't need captions to "explain" it. Many comics, I think, fall prey to redundancy in some form. I was reading a recent Harvey Pekar comic, and I kept thinking, 'Why didn't he just write this out?' The art, while nicely done, was superfluous. The art and the text, rather than counterpointing or estranging each other, only propped up each other's weaknesses. There was nothing special about their relationship that made me think "This needs to be done in comic book format." The only justification for comic books, in my view, is whether what you're doing would become a lesser work if done in a different medium.

There's a lot here to argue, but I do have to say that the final statement is a very true one. God, why the Hell would you want to tell a comic story that you could do just as well as something else? With the potential inherent in the form, why just do a movie on paper, a novel on paper? That's lazy, and it's not adaptive thinking. That's one of many problems I have with a great deal of comic content on shelves right now. Obviously, Kabuki is a book that violently bucks that trend and is a strong work for it (in case one thought we were wandering too far off topic?).

Let me knock a few of the tangents out of the way...
1) Pekar's revolutions were more of content than of form. At the time of the underground movement, he was the first to bring the medium down to an approachable, universal human level. Personally, I think Campbell did and does it better, but Pekar did it first.
2) The over-captioning, over-narrating effect was a stylistic tic of the 60's and 70's, and it's ridiculous to try to analyze the medium itself based on those stories, from those creators, in that time period. It's like trying to deconstruct hip-hop culture from "Ice, Ice Baby." It was comparatively popular in its time, and people still remember it, but that doesn't mean a damn thing on an artistic level.
3) This isn't a prose vs. comics argument. There ISN'T a prose vs. comics argument. They're two different media with different strengths, and they shouldn't be weighed against each other when discussing mechanics.

But getting back to the subject of the thread? "The Russian Formalists believed that the poetic effect was based on language 'estranging' itself, that is, calling attention to itself rather than attempting 'transparency'." I think that's pretty interesting, myself. It's funny that one of the titles I cited originally was "A Disease of Language." Moore and Campbell's "The Birth Caul" is interesting in that as it grows "more poetic," what it's really doing is regressing in age - time moves backwards in the "narrative," to the point where the final pages are in a pre-verbal state.

This bit was dissected very well in an essay included in Abiogenesis Press's Moore tribute, "Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman." I'll admit to being too lazy to go into the reading room to grab my copy and cite the appropriate pensmith - poor form, I know, but I'm tired. But it does go back to my earlier point about comics being a more natural language for youth, before "training" sets in.

One might also point out that Kabuki: The Alchemy, in its poetic and abstract style, has frequently been about returning to a mindset pre-indoctrination, to reclaim a creative spirit. There are a lot of lines converging here.

But my point is, comics have a lot of rhythmic schemes going on at once - the narration and dialogue, but also page layout, panel structures, and motion. Time is infinitely complex when portrayed in comics, and I wonder if the different cadence that "poetic," looser prose has fits more appropriately, and on a larger level, if the cadence of more abstractly, more open comic artwork, like Kabuki, is a more natural language for the medium.

Hell's bells, did any of that make sense?

jactinglim
05-29-2006, 12:58 AM
http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y178/jactinglim/scarab.jpg

I created this fanart recently and the I wrote that poem beside it. I have this weird way of writing that usually follows the same number. In this case I have three words for every first line, two words on every second line, and one word for the third and last line. And overall it has three stanzas(?). Call me silly ;)

magz
07-14-2006, 12:45 PM
very interesting stuff here...

it was more interesting and quite a coincidence. or (what I call here synchronicity ).. that I just read james o barr's the crow original gra[phic novel..
very chock full of intense prose/poetry/storytelling in motion set to the soundtrack of a comic book...

:D ..

MACK!
02-19-2007, 10:26 PM
I understand what you mean about the rearranging of language.
That is one of the things I love about comics.
A natural hybridization and evolution of language happens everytime I make a comic. I love watching those mutations happen right before my eyes.

Burroughs' WORD VIRUS was influentual on me.
And I was enjoying Leonard Cohen's books of poetry lately.






Hey, it's the local Rabbi, come to kick dirt in my face! Kidding, of course.

There's always a trend towards passive art, yes - I'll spare the community a lecture on impressionism or on Norman Rockwell - but comics is an inherently interactive medium. Stuart Moulthrop coined the term Interstitial Fiction (http://iat.ubalt.edu/moulthrop/essays/misadventure/) to discuss the similarities between comics and not film or prose, but video games. The way that the medium engages the mind at a basic level demands a greater level of participation (see McCloud on the topic of "Closure" - an idea which Cohn takes to task in his own ideas).

(Prez Rickard here - who is more the Burroughs man than I am - I'm more the
"new media" guy - knows this already, but I'm speaking to a general audience here, or attempting to. Clearly I'm going to ramble around the subject without a structure to my argument, but it's been a long day, and I'm not ready to write a thesis.)

I think the lack of consideration when it comes to poetry - and I'm as guilty of it as anyone - is that nobody's talking about it. I can't recall, before this, the last time I even heard it brought up (aside from a few girls I know personally, and the less said about their work, perhaps the better?) even amongst the more literary circles I poseur all up in (ha ha?). As a more abstract form, it's never been very approachable, but with prose slowly regaining ground as mass media (due to Oprah, religious angles, and movie tie-ins), it's become even more completely eclipsed.

I am using too many parentheses in this post.

In response to the latter half of your post, though, Doc Hollywood,I agree with you, naturally, in principle, but what I'm addressing here is an both an alteration of prose style in order to affect the cadence of the piece. It's a question of rhythm as well as abstraction. I'm divorcing the subject from the content of whatever comic we're discussing and talking about a formal concern.

While I'm yammering on, I thought I'd open the reader mailbag... I linked over to this thread on my site and a talented writer of my acquaintance named Spike weighed in on the subject. He's woefully underexposed to comics and, in my view, has biased himself against them based on a skewed perspective on the subject of what constitutes literary merit - frustratingly, he's also one of the best damned writers I know.

Here's what he said:



There's a lot here to argue, but I do have to say that the final statement is a very true one. God, why the Hell would you want to tell a comic story that you could do just as well as something else? With the potential inherent in the form, why just do a movie on paper, a novel on paper? That's lazy, and it's not adaptive thinking. That's one of many problems I have with a great deal of comic content on shelves right now. Obviously, Kabuki is a book that violently bucks that trend and is a strong work for it (in case one thought we were wandering too far off topic?).

Let me knock a few of the tangents out of the way...
1) Pekar's revolutions were more of content than of form. At the time of the underground movement, he was the first to bring the medium down to an approachable, universal human level. Personally, I think Campbell did and does it better, but Pekar did it first.
2) The over-captioning, over-narrating effect was a stylistic tic of the 60's and 70's, and it's ridiculous to try to analyze the medium itself based on those stories, from those creators, in that time period. It's like trying to deconstruct hip-hop culture from "Ice, Ice Baby." It was comparatively popular in its time, and people still remember it, but that doesn't mean a damn thing on an artistic level.
3) This isn't a prose vs. comics argument. There ISN'T a prose vs. comics argument. They're two different media with different strengths, and they shouldn't be weighed against each other when discussing mechanics.

But getting back to the subject of the thread? "The Russian Formalists believed that the poetic effect was based on language 'estranging' itself, that is, calling attention to itself rather than attempting 'transparency'." I think that's pretty interesting, myself. It's funny that one of the titles I cited originally was "A Disease of Language." Moore and Campbell's "The Birth Caul" is interesting in that as it grows "more poetic," what it's really doing is regressing in age - time moves backwards in the "narrative," to the point where the final pages are in a pre-verbal state.

This bit was dissected very well in an essay included in Abiogenesis Press's Moore tribute, "Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman." I'll admit to being too lazy to go into the reading room to grab my copy and cite the appropriate pensmith - poor form, I know, but I'm tired. But it does go back to my earlier point about comics being a more natural language for youth, before "training" sets in.

One might also point out that Kabuki: The Alchemy, in its poetic and abstract style, has frequently been about returning to a mindset pre-indoctrination, to reclaim a creative spirit. There are a lot of lines converging here.

But my point is, comics have a lot of rhythmic schemes going on at once - the narration and dialogue, but also page layout, panel structures, and motion. Time is infinitely complex when portrayed in comics, and I wonder if the different cadence that "poetic," looser prose has fits more appropriately, and on a larger level, if the cadence of more abstractly, more open comic artwork, like Kabuki, is a more natural language for the medium.

Hell's bells, did any of that make sense?