Here in the land of making distinctions so fine it makes slicing a frog's hair four ways look like splitting wood, I am pleased to present a selection of pieces by K.S. Ernst which do to the term "concrete poetry" what concrete poetry does to language itself. Concrete poetry gets us looking at language as if it were a malleable substance (and it is). These pieces by K.S. Ernst get us looking at "concrete poetry" as if its definition were dynamic, not fixed (which it is).
From the way the titles create the context within which the poems succeed, to the resonance of the visual elements with the lexical/textual, I say these poems are as legitimately termed "concrete poetry" as they are "visual poetry"--they are both at once, simultaneously; mutually inclusive.
Two quotes from bpNichol leap to mind at this moment, both from the Long-liners Conference Issue of Open Letter, (Open Letter, Sixth Series, Nos. 2-3: Summer-Fall 1985)
"one of the things the Concrete Poetry movement taught us as writers was to reclaim the small gesture. some texts need to exist separate from our desire to 'collect' them. once we become sensititized to what is happening tonally, imagistically, rhythmically, etc. within the smaller gestural works we are then in a position to introduce notes with exactly those qualities into a larger composition."
"reading is not just one kind of experience. we use it in different ways to fulfill different purposes & desires. why not texts then of such synaesthesia that they touch as many desires in the reader, fulfill as many purposes for the reader, as possible?"
Why not, indeed. Please click on these thumbnails to enlarge.
I have thought about visual poetry in a number of different ways in the many years I have been creating it. In the ´60s I was writing regular poetry -- that is, poetry using only words. I became increasingly interested in white space as a way of regulating time/rhythm/delivery in a poem. Over time the size of the white space in my work has increased. I often found myself metaphorically looking through a magnifying glass, working with letters or symbols -- or even merely parts of letters of symbols -- rather than whole words and phrases.
Since the late ´70s I have been keeping a workbook of ideas that come to me when I have no time to actualize them, and at this point I have over 800 pages. I separated these ideas into themes (twenty so far) and am publishing the themes as a sort of Fluxus work, with each edition being different as new pages are added. The 2002 version is in the Ohio State University Avant Garde Writing Collection.
Much of my work is collage or three-dimensional. Other pieces are poems in books although the letters are ceramic, the pages are wood, and the book is rigid. Some are stand-alone sculptural objects that have three-dimensional non-alphabetic subjects that take the place of part of the text. Currently I am using photographs combined with words and letters. I join these visual poetry "quilt squares" via computer and output the conceptual "quilts" on fabric or canvas. Many of my digital pieces are destined for output in very large format.
Some websites where more of my work can be seen: