Archive of: Weiss, Irving

12 by Irving Weiss

This happens to me so often: I start with the seed of an idea or a process that sometimes grows into something wonderful in which the original seed is no longer visible. Or, if it is, it really asks to be taken out of the piece for the good of both the seed and the piece. This used to bother me, but I've come to realize that those seeds are never wasted, they can always be planted again if need be.

I bring up this notion because a similar process has occurred between Irving Weiss and me. Several weeks ago Irving sent me a terrific visual poem in which "the thing written is rendered in the thing itself," a rich and often leveraged trope (self-referentiality) in concrete poetry. And from there a conversation ensued that resulted in my getting a copy of his book Visual Voices, The Poem As A Print Object (Runaway Spoon Press, 1994), and a bunch more individual visual poems.

The seed in today's story is the individual visual poems. The something wonderful in which the original seed is no longer visible is a discussion (with 12 examples) of Visual Voices. The planting again will come in a few weeks, when I'll be featuring some of Irving's poems which are NOT in Visual Voices.

What struck me most about the poems in Visual Voices was their relentless exploration of the idea of the poem as a print form. I have reservations about considering any of the poems in Visual Voices as strictly "minimalist concrete poetry, and I believe Irving does as well. In fact, he says: "To be sure, many of my VV poems can be looked at from a concrete/minimalist vantage. I don't mind that at all. Actually, I never before quite saw my VVs in strict concrete/minimal terms, but of course on reconsideration I recognize parts and whole poems as belonging to those historical and categorical forms."

But many are tantalizingly close, and all of them resonate with the mindset I find myself in when I am composing concrete poetry. The tinkerer holds things in their hands and fiddles with the moving parts and futzes with the places where hidden moving parts might be. Fiddling with the conceptual knobs on bits of language is what helps me see opportunities for making concrete poetry. Visual Voices is nothing short of a tour de force in fiddling with the knobs of the poem as a print object. It is so good at what it does that reading it has the effect of gently reminding a habituated brain how to see the knobs and hooks and buttons again. Every poem in Visual Voices is a physical reworking and/or re-presenting of the print appearance of existing traditional poems, each one in a fashion completely distinct from every other poem in the collection.

The 71 titles--alone--serve as an effective preview of the range of inventiveness the poems themselves realize:

(poems in red are viewable in the 12 page .pdf linked below)

  • Reverberations: Night Mind Anthology
  • A Great Poem A-borning Poem
  • Poem in the Making and Unmaking
  • Consubstantial Poem
  • Caressed and Overloved Poem
  • Poem of the Unmoored Lines Remembered
  • Poem Floating through One's Dream, Blurred in Three Places
  • The Incarcerate's Sweet Hope
  • Graffiti Poem
  • Analytically Ravaged Stanza Poem
  • Barnacled Poem, Being Dragged Down Under
  • Reader's Free Alteration Poem
  • Couplets Snapping by in the Poetic Welkin
  • Magaphone Index Poem
  • Team Poem
  • The Big El: Poem of the Longest and Shortest Pentameter Lines
  • Telephone Doodle Poem
  • Major Poem with Minor Poem Huddling to Heel
  • Fifteenth-Century Poem Stands Out Boldly at Last against the Dimness of Its Long Neglect
  • Poem in Extremis: Trying to Escape Itself
  • Poem with Right Margin Pulled Tight to Dislodge Secret Message
  • Poem Refusing to Be Paged
  • Poem with Rightful Line Evicting an Imposter from Another Poem
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning Corpus Stylistic Analysis Program Reinventing "How Do I Love Thee" (Phase 19 Runoff 1769∑)
  • Horror Poem
  • Two Giddy Sonnets Trying to "Pass" with Exchanged Parts
  • Zipperpoem: the Approach, Closure, and Congress
  • Two Poems Accidentally Driven Together by Homolettristic Explosions in an Alphabetical Minefield
  • Poem with Rhymes Unclasped, Falling off Their Cliffs
  • Poem As Mental Convergence toward Its Two Finest Lines
  • Telegram Poem
  • Black Magic Poem
  • Poem Seen Sideways, in Profile
  • Fourth-Wall Poem
  • Invasive Poem Leaf-Overleaf: Having Torn Loose from Its Moorings Drifts Down to Right Side Margin and Turns Edge
  • Poem with Hair
  • Poem Invisible, of the Seven Journeys through the Magnetic Zone Between Title And Poem
  • Clock-Title Poem; or, Work of Art Simultaneously Presenting Itself as Poem-Poem with Title at 12 o'Clock Position, as Museum-Exhibit-Poem with Title at Either 3 o'Clock or 9 o'Clock Positions, and As Work-of-Fine-Art-Poem at 6 o'Clock Position
  • Archaic Blockverse Poem
  • Poem Reorganized According to a Subliminal Principle of Cohesion
  • Zeroing-In Poem
  • Poem of the Reader's Laser-Beam Mind Fusing an Epic into Its Initial and Concluding Couplets
  • Original Coursing through Translation: Aerial View
  • The Eye Crawls Along the Periphery of the Poem
  • Foundering Poem: of the Going Down into Davy Jones' locker, Where Already Lies....
  • Telescopic Piece of Poem Marching in the Poetic Firmament
  • Toppling Poem; or, the Dangers of the Doggeral Tower
  • The Poem Speaks in the Poet's Voice
  • Drawing-Poem: Two Portraits
  • Luminous, or Keyhole, Poem
  • Poem of the Uniqueness of the Right Margin in Threefold Demonstration
  • The Traditional Poem As Postmodern Transformer
  • Poem with Things Coming Out of It
  • The Imp of the Idling Mind Disfigures Five Stanzas in the Silent Reading of a Long Poem
  • Poem: Simultaneous View of As Both Compressed and Spacious
  • Wingless Duck Poemlet Waddles Out of Poem
  • Page Poem
  • Poem Eyeless, Toothless, Headless
  • Reverse Word-Order Poem
  • Intaglio Poem
  • A Globule of Blake Whirling Tags to the Four Corners
  • Poem Making Ten Nifty Points
  • A Blinded by Reader's Emotion Poem
  • Achromatic Poem with Drone in Four Breaths
  • Refrain Chorus Poem
  • Three Card Monte Poem
  • Prayer Poem Taking Off
  • Original and Translation
  • Murmurs in the Great Poetic Welkin Tracking Their Poem
  • Onomatopoeic Poem
  • The Book Closed, the Facing Pages Kiss
Irving has graciously allowed me to assemble a .pdf that includes eleven poems from Visual Voices, and one poem composed as part of the series which was not included in the final collection. Please take the extra step of printing these out and holding them in your hands to read them. They were composed specifically as explorations of the poem as a print object, and are already experiencing significant loss in being excerpted out of their book context. I urge you to view them in as near to their intended presentation as possible.

And most of all, I hope that this preview will encourage you to contact Runaway Spoon Press to purchase a copy of the full manuscript. If you enjoy this preview, I guarantee you'll find the complete collection a bargain at twice the price.

Excerpts from Visual Voices, The Poem As A Print Object (1.3 meg, .pdf), by Irving Weiss

Copies of the complete book are available from:

Bob Grumman
Runaway Spoon Press
1708 Hayworth Road
Port Charlotte FL 33952
bobgrumman at nut-n-but dot net

For more Irving Weiss, please visit his website at: or contact him via email at irvingweiss at optonline dot net.