Continuing from the post from last week about poems becoming like comics, this week I want to look at comics becoming like poems.
What makes a poem a poem? Definitions are notoriously difficult, mostly due to the fact that practitioners push the boundaries of the medium.
One of the defining characteristics of poetry is repetition. Repeated sounds become rhyme and repeated stressed syllables become rhythm. Not all poems have these things, but before the rise of free verse they were required.
Poems also do not tend to concern themselves with plot. Obviously, works like The Odyssey show that this is not always true, but most contemporary poetry does not attempt to be narrative. It focuses more often on emotion, imagery, and word play for its own sake.
An anthology that monitored the frontier of comics poetry was Ink Brick. On its about page, it states that it looked for artists who explored “the expressive potential of comics’ visual language.” Whether or not comics is a “language” remains a theoretical battleground, but poetry definitely plays with language in a way that other literary forms do not. Poets play with the slippery meanings of words as well as the various sounds of words and the resonances between those sounds. If we transpose this to comics, then comics poets play with the building blocks of the medium, either to express a new idea or for the formal play itself.
So what follows is a list of comics artists whose work I consider poetic, whether or not the artist consciously defines themself as a comics poet. So this list is purely subjective and is me imposing a grouping upon these unsuspecting artists. Not everything that these artists create I would classify as comics poetry, but each has created work that puts them on the list. Also, the artists I choose to include here are ones that I am moved by. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list.
So here we go. I’m just going to list each artist with a little sample and links to their sites. I invite you to go explore on your own.