Welcome to The Last Vispo Anthology
The Last Vispo Anthology has three purposes: to document the recent upsurge in visual poetry, to make visual poetry available to a wider audience, and to be used as a pedagogical tool in poetry and art curriculum at the secondary and post-secondary level. This anthology is global in scope with 130 contributors from over twenty countries, with proportionally more women than previous anthologies. The Last Vispo Anthology documents a decade, 1998 to 2008, in which a burst of activity surfaced through the advent of computerization across the world of visual poetry – similar to the mail art movement of the 1980s. The work in this decade pushed deeper into the concrete poetics of the 1950s, reveling in the semiotics of alphabets, the signifying contours of letters, words, phrases, and their concomitant spaces. The Last Vispo Anthology will serve as a springboard not only to more visual poetry but to many other poetries. Susan Tichy, professor of English at George Mason University, argues that in her graduate seminar on visual poetry, her students gain a broader sense of what a poem is, what a poet does. This anthology has the potential to stimulate emerging writers in ways that conventional curricula does not.
The Last Vispo Anthology extends the dialectic between art and literature that began with the concrete poetry movement fifty years ago.
Rather than settling into predictable unchallenged patterns, this vibrant poetry is seizing new tools to grow the body of work inhabiting the borderlands of visual art and poetry. In addition, as more social and cognitive interaction occurs in digital space/s, the need to develop new processes of thinking and communicating persists. The Last Vispo Anthology provides tools toward that development, creating ways to converse across and within images and texts.
Acutely aware that no major international anthology highlighting the cumulative wealth of visual poetry had been published since the 1970s, the editors began in 2008 to put such a book together, a selection of visual poetry created worldwide since 1998. Why 1998? Visual poetry appeared to be in a period of rapid expansion: for poets (new digital tools) and for readers (thousands and thousands of visual poems an internet click away). Even the mainstream magazine Poetry opened its pages for the first time to visual poems (and even more work was made available on-line). Several other print and on-line journals—Drunken Boat, The Mad Hatter’s Review, and Area Sneaks among them—have dedicated issues or sections of issues to the close consideration of contemporary visual poetry. Dozens of blogs around the world post samples of visual poetry and review exhibitions and publications of visual poetry, and Dan Waber is methodically publishing chapbooks of visual poetry by artists from around the world under the imprint This Is Visual Poetry. The timing is right for a collective statement, for a big, brimming book of recent visual poetry.
The Last Vispo Anthology has no contemporary peer in English.
There has been only one anthology of visual poetry published in the last twenty-five years, Writing To Be Seen (Light & Dust, 2001) edited by Crag Hill and Bob Grumman, but the scope of that book was purposely limited, the first volume in a series of three that would document American visual poetry in the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. The Last Vispo Anthology has international range, with a broad selection across the experience spectrum, long-time practitioners alongside poets new to visual poetry in the last decade, underscoring the longevity and the continued vitality of the medium.
Crag Hill & Nico Vassilakis