Recently I was invited to be a judge of a high school poetry contest, and to co-lead a workshop and reading for the winners. I don't know about your area of the world, but in this area the amount of exposure to poetry that public school students receive is very limited. However, they have spent as much time writing with digital tools as they have with analog tools. I was struck by the number of poems submitted which took major or minor advantage of the visual possibilities afforded by creative typography. There were even some pieces which I felt most anyone would consider to be concrete poems. They had not been taught concrete poetry, they came to it on their own by the process of playing with the visual properties of language.
Martha Deed is many things, but one thing I'm sure she isn't is a high school student. But she has a way of working that sparkles with that same enthusiasm of exploration that I love, value, strive for in my own work, and found in the peoms of a handful of those students. When I consider her work words like "fresh," "crisp," and "clean" leap to mind--less as a classical bowl of fruit and more as the contemporary banana of life.
She will tell you, herself, that she's not comfortable walking in minimalist concrete poetry shoes, and there is much about her work--even this work I want to share with you today--that bears only passing resemblance to this site's titular mission. This is what can happen when you're not afraid to color outside the lines.
Please click on these thumbnails to enlarge.
Sick & Longevity & Life
Martha Deed spent her childhood and young adulthood in places where she could watch the Hudson River. Six years ago, she retired her psychology practice in western New York and settled into a house on the Erie Canal. Here, after more than 20 years of writing half-time, she began a life of full-time writing and web work, surprising herself by turning to poetry, rather than to the narrative non-fiction she had expected to write. Throughout her life, she has been drawn to the importance of place, culture, and politics (personal and governmental) in a person's life. In re-entering the world of poetry after a thirty year absence, she still finds herself surprised by the possibilities, walks out of readings shaking her head, "You mean I can do that? It's OK to do that in poetry?" Her recent work is marked by a constant effort to learn from, then discard, "the rules" she learned decades ago.
She has been playing with mixed genres - poems with graphics, graphic poems with no words, collage and graphics and documents, video - sometimes to explore the impact of a crime, sometimes to try to free a larger idea or event through a minimum of verbal interference from the "reporter." Often, when she stops to consider the term "concrete minimalist poetry," she is confused. But sometimes, her work carries her away from traditional texts and into the territory of a concrete minimalist poet. Even though she is still unsettled about where she actually belongs.
The pieces displayed here are all intended to plunge the viewer into an experience that stimulates both emotion and thought. They are intended to be gateways, not boxes, inviting engagement more than interpretation or conclusions.
Related work is linked at Martha's website: www.sporkworld.org/Deed
Other tiny poems can be found through Martha's website at links for Verse on
Vellum, Lynx, Dirt, Edifice Wrecked, and nthposition.
Experiments with altered texts, collage, and minimalist non-fiction can be
Erasures (2003): Three Statements. John's Statement, Wife's Statement,
Justice Erased http://www.sporkworld.org/Deed/johnstatement.html
Missing Man (2005 - Work in Progress)
Deed Square: A Murder (2003)
Two minimalist videos extend the experimentation to sound, collage, and
Birthday Dinner (2005) http://www.sporkworld.org/Deed/birthday/birthday.html
Winter Storm Warning (2005) http://www.sporkworld.org/Deed/winterstorm.html