Friday, September 15, 2006

Some randomness on poetry and the visual (and who knows what else)

I'm all too quick to compare anything that I like to poetry, but I'm about to do it again. Here goes:

Graphic novels remind me of poetry.

Granted, my experience is limited. But I've been binging a wee bit (as I promised I would), and of the four I've read in the last month or so, I would say they all share a poetry-like quality of understatedness. They're much less like novels (if when you think of novels you think of things like Pride and Prejudice and Portait of a Lady). As C said when I was talking up graphic novels one day, a graphic novel of a Henry James novel would be really boring. For pages, the pictures would all be the same.

Because graphic novels are (of course) more imagistic than the psychological novel or the novel of manners. They depend on the visual for resonance. There's a plot, sure, but the plot almost doesn't matter. It's what happens, what you can see that matters.

Of course, I'm totally talking out of my league here. Like I said, I'm not graphic novel expert. Haven't read up on the criticism or anything. All I'm really going for here is an observation I hinted at a few posts back: of course I'm visually oriented. I may not have great visual meta-language as yet, but it's so clear that my belief that I've long had that I'm almost purely alphabetically based is so much hogwash. I mean, yeah, I'm very oriented toward phonetic language. But clearly the visual seeps under my skin, your skin. Can't be helped.

And I find it interesting to think about this in relation to my longtime orientation toward poetry. Truth be told, I rarely find the time to read new poetry, and I certainly almost never write it any more. I can't even remember the last time I wrote poetry. But it's so clearly a visually-oriented medium. Traditional forms of poetry depend on the evocation of images. But even experimental forms depend on the visual impact of the graphic text.

All the more reason to continue to work on my ability to talk about it--to use words and concepts to makes sense of something whose affect/effect is prior to all that.


jeff said...

Check out - if you haven't yet - the NY Times Sunday magazine, online or in print. Starting today, they are running Seth's work. He has a very cool nostalgic feeling to is writing/comics.

There is also a special visualization/graphic novels interactive section today as well.

Donna said...

Thanks especially for alerting me to the interactive online section. Seth says he thinks of graphic novels as a combination of poetry and graphic design. Cool.

When I saw Seth's comic in the magazine, I thought it actually did sort of evoke Henry James. So much for that being boring. I like it.

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