They brought us a bouquet of retinal flowers.
To fuss and cause a fracas in the eye.
Through Through. The thread finds its optic hole.
The Last Vispo.
Last again – to suggest some cyclical elimination.
Last again – to force deliberate pause on the relentless electronic convergence of text & eye & art & poetry. To have visual poetry be housed, for a moment, in a space that can be both distinguished from and aligned with other art forms.
Last again – to accommodate and encompass a sampling of visual poetry produced around the turn of the century.
Last again – in the dada strain of skepticism and destruction.
Last again – in order to renew.
The legacy or lineage of visual poetry, of concrete poetry, of shamanic letter conjuring aside, we seek to engage the new poet, the new looker. We aim to foster the young fidgeter of letter construction. What you’re looking at is just a small slice of what visual poets around the world are up to.
Vispo is not merely a hybrid of image and word, but a phenomenon natural to handlers of text, be it reader or writer. It’s the predilection visual poets have for reimagining the alphabet at play. It’s a mongrel of visual language and lexical image on steroids
So what are you looking at? It’s alphabet in every possible and available position you can imagine. You are looking at alphabet after it’s exploded and word/letter cohesion is broken.
The owner’s manual of blur. Operating instructions.
Here is the answer to that. After language goes awry you are left with alphabet as the only scaffold
Letters roil in Kama Sutra induced maneuvers.
In the manual, letters are not monogamous – they don’t belong to any particular word, but are free to roam and explore themselves. They form new molecular space.
This anthology might pose the question; how do our retinal experiences alter what we think we know about alphabet?
The visual poetry of alphabet insists that writing is the drawing of what and how we think, and within that writing, images accrue, the letters themselves, drawn, or otherwise printed, are illustrating or reproducing our thought.
Eyes have always been the brats – attention getting toys securing their place in our very cognition – vispo, its very victim.
So looking at a word the eye lands on a letter and it begins to stare back at you.
Bright sunny days for those who retaliate.
Things, letters, come together for a short while.
We are double agents. We are immersed in the schizophrenia of Both word and picture, as one.
The nihilism of language as a mere procedural start.
Why the last?
Well, we tend to think that Vispo, as a category, now includes so many thriving sub genres that it cannot contain them all. Text art and visual language are so fecund, and the inclusion of digital potential so vast, that the scene has changed abruptly in the past few years. The book intends to capture the moment as this happened. The essays in The Last Vispo give purchase to the idea of both failure and possibility and of the history of visual poetry. OR it’s the last, as in the latest.
And from Crag…
To Anna, I would add, it’s taken over 30 years for a major concrete/visual poetry anthology to see print, it’s unlikely a similar project can be completed before print is as obsolete as memorization.
The Last Vispo Anthology builds a bridge from the pictorial writing of the past into the vast future of visual writing.
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 pedagogic tool in poetry and art curriculum at the secondary and post-secondary level. This anthology is global in scope with 148 contributors from 23 countries, with proportionally more women than previous anthologies. The Last Vispo 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 by reveling in the semiotics of alphabets, the signifying contours of letters, words, phrases, and their concomitant spaces. 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.
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). Dozens of blogs around the world post samples of visual poetry and review exhibitions and publications of visual poetry. The timing is right for a collective statement, for a big, brimming book of recent visual poetry.
Crag Hill & Nico Vassilakis