fuligin ink

A project exploring the connections between poetry and graphic literature.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Poetry and Comics: The Necessity of Variety in Medium

There are many ways of dealing with unique human experiences of reality, and naturally it is the subject of many arguments in the modern art world. Romantic poets write about the beauty of their surroundings and the difficulties of expressing the intensity of human emotion. Alfred Lord Tennyson writes, “So runs my dream: but what am I? / An infant crying in the night: / An infant crying for the light: / And with no language but a cry.”(1) in clear recognition and angst about the inability to express his innermost feelings.

Conversely, Walt Whitman writes, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”(2) The Transcendentalist poets rejoice in the fact that humans can share their experiences. However, if all humans have similar experiences, it is interesting that Transcendentalists still see the need to point out the human ability to communicate.

The Transcendentalists also emphasized the infinite beauty of simple things. They demonstrate that humans can indeed focus attention upon different details, and yet they still assert that we all are parts of the same unified reality. Is it redundant to recount something that everyone experiences?

1. Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam. London: E. Moxon, 1850, ll. 17-20.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Poetry and Comics: the Necessity of Variety in Medium (Part 2)

I have written that it is important to know how art functions in order to use it as an effective means of communication.Does this mean that someone must have an innate ability for technique? Not necessarily—although technique is important, there is far more to art than technique. “In comics, the realism or flashiness of a drawing is nowhere near as important as its ability to convey information." (1)

In fact, drawing less polished or realistic illustrations may even allow the words to carry a greater weight. Mary Ruefle does this in Go Home and Go to Bed! She primarily uses the medium of poetry, but the comics medium allows her to take her work even further. The amateur drawings have a charm about them, almost as if she’s drawing colloquially. Her work presents itself humbly and ordinarily, it becomes a celebration of the mundane. It shows a subjective point of view on life—that it is depressing; yet it is light-hearted due to Ruefle’s informally-drawn colloquial comic style.

This holds some similarities to the attitude of haiku. The “comic” aspect of haiku lies in its ordinary colloquial diction as well as its focus on mundane natural events. Basho writes “The profit of haikai lies in making common speech right.” (2) Of course, Ruefle’s events aren’t of nature, but they still hold some Haiku spirit. Haiku presents ordinary events as far from mundane by demonstrating the human mind’s ability to selectively perceive reality.

And every mind does perceive it differently. Picture two people sitting in a park. One of them is looking at some rhododendrons. She looks closer at the specks on the petals and thinks that they make it look like a spotted fish. Her friend, however, is listening to some finches flit around, rustle branches and chirp frantically at each other. “Did you hear that?” he might say, but she has been focusing on a drop of dew rolling down the stamen of the rhododendron. Meanwhile, a woman walks by with her dog and notices neither flower nor bird, but instead she is thinking about a conversation she had with her boss.

All of these people have valid unique experiences. The first person will never hear exactly the same birds as the second, the second person has no idea what the third is thinking about, and the third person was entirely oblivious to the rhododendron.
And even if they do focus their attentions on the same thing, they each have different feelings and reactions to the thing itself. The girl who is looking at the flower remembers a fish, if her friend saw it he might think of a rhododendron bush at his home, and the third woman might think about the weather that caused the dew.

1. Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. Drawing Words and Writing Pictures. New York: Roaring Book Press 2008, 9.

2.Basho. “Advice on Haiku.” The Essential Haiku. Ecco Press, 1995, 234.

Image from Mary Ruefle. Go Home and Go To Bed! Pilot Poetry, 2007.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rethought thought bubbles

Thought bubbles look like brains.

Poetry and Comics: the Necessity of Variety in Medium (Part 1)

Every person in the world lives in his or her own private theater. Although I would assert that we all may perceive the same noumenalogical reality (that is to say, reality is precisely what it is regardless of varied experiences), we are each aware of different parts of that reality, and we each have unique experiences.

Although it is beautiful that people can have so many different strengths, the inability to fully understand each other’s experiences firsthand causes a great deal of problems for humanity. People can easily drift toward selfishness and misunderstanding, because we cannot truly and completely see the world from another person’s point of view.

What are we to do? We as humans have crafted a societal lifestyle in which our success and happiness in life is largely contingent upon our abilities to relate to other people. Our minds can process the world around us and we can think and feel and react to our experiences--but this leaves each and every person with a unique subjective perspective of reality.

Scott McCloud describes this dilemma as the wall of ignorance. He asserts that art acts as a medium of communication. The word medium quite literally means “middle.” A unique thought may travel as a message from one mind through a medium (such as poetry or comics) to another mind. Of course, the medium and the minds involved do change the message, so it is very important to pay attention to the form that we use to communicate ideas. The more we know about how a medium functions, the better we can use it to communicate with each other.

(Both images are from Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art from Harper Paperbacks, 2004. I highly recommend this book--you should also check out his website in the links section of this blog.)