ALLEN BRAMHALL Reviews
Anthology Spidertangle, Edited by mIEKAL aND
(Xexoxial Editions, West Lima, Wisconsin, 2009)
Anthology Spidertangle presents some of the material produced on the Spidertangle email list. I first heard about the project by an announcement posted on the Wryting-L list. I don't know who started the wiki, but mIEKAL aND's Xexoxial Editions published this book. And there, friends, is the starting point.
Spidertangle invited works of visual poetry. I have produced such but lacking confidence in my ability in such realm, I let the opportunity pass. I've heard of and seen the works of many of the artists here: John Bennett, Sheila Murphy, Michael Basinski, Geof Huth, Donna Kuhn, Bob Grumman, Richard Kostelanetz. A pretty collaborative bunch, as it happens.
So here is visual poetry. Does it rhyme? Does it even have words? Okay, Rule 1: there are no rules. Such a condition agitates a lot of people. Those people must be pretty exacting about their definition of Poetry. It rhymes and it bores you, right? Or it doesn't rhyme, but it talks about your feelings, in a stalwart first person way. When I think of the Poetry Rules committee, I tend to get snide.
This is a really beautiful book, tho sadly unquotable. Words appear in most of the presented works. They are reshaped or recontexted, and sometimes unstoppable, so you need sticky shoes to stay on deck.
On page 1, Brian Zimmer offers what appears to be letters and image writ on water. You can see the almostness of distinction. You know that you must fill in the gaps. Someone named endwar presents a large, serifed majuscule 'E'. Instead of one short bit in the middle, however, there are two. The piece bears the notation “after Aram Saroyan.” Naturally. Camille Martin presents a couple of word collages. The words apparently culled from numerous printed sources such as magazines. In one, the phrase “don't be usurped by the wrong voodoo” stands out (for me). Maria Damon offers a couple of pieces done as samplers (you know, those sewing things). And so on. Can you see how fun this book is to look at?
Roughly 50 artists contributed to this book. Very short statements and bios are fitted at the back. Of course you don't read this book. You leave it out, to pick it up randomly and go “Huhn!” That's basically one of my definitions of poetry, but here the jolt, or nuance, comes quickly, being visual.
Alas to speak of the one downer here, the book is black and white (except for the vivid cover). At least some of these works began in color. Color costs extra, I get that. Some of these works lose their fastball, lacking the color possibility. I guess that makes them changeups, because these are major league talents (baseball reference).
That's just a minor quibble. Seeing letters and words mucked around with in a visual way transcends the pleasure of color. I suppose this book invites those willing to rise from their comfy chairs, but the immediacy of these works seems tuned to catch anyone's attention, granting that they have attention to begin with.
Allen Bramhall: Resident of Massachusetts. Attended Franconia College where I learned a great deal from Robert Grenier Maintain two blogs. Tributary, ruminative and often humourous, and Simple Theories, which collects my recent poetry as it is written.