Visual Poetics of Literary Form: from Visual Poetry to Poetry Film

Instructor: Natalia Fedorova,
Office: 14N-223 Hours: by appointment.
Prerequisites: none

Course Objectives:
Visual Poetics of Literary Form: from Visual Poetry to Poetry Film examines the development of experimental literary forms from visual to multimedia poetics through the twenties century in radically changing landscape of Russian cultural history. Explores their transition across national and media borders. Course will look at the history of representation of visual poetic forms from Russian futurism and avant-garde further on to underground samizdat, poetry film, kinetic and digital poetry praсtices. Careful observation of the dynamics of the visual poetic forms will allow to re-think the notion of novelty, as well as observe how the economical and historic circumstances can influence the mode and media used by the artist. Taking poetry as our case study, we will examine visual writing practices from a historical and cross-cultural perspective to ask what is at stake in the mediation and remediation of text


1. Short responses to each reading in the blog.
2. Four creative pieces:

  • write a poem and arrange it in the shape that you think reflects you
  • collect meaningful for you texts (old papers, walpaper, tickets, posters), put them together making unigue book. Reflect on the relations of the material and content
  • create an animated text using either of the methods discuss
  • create a poem film or an audio poem.

3. Final project: Incorporating either of the techniques discussed in your own work.

Class 1. Image as a Text. Pattern Poem. Ancient and Medieval visual poe`try forms.Russian Baroque.

Introduction to visual poetics. Overview of the patterns and their meanings in historical perspective.

Assignement 1: write a poem and arrange it in the shape that you think reflects you.

Reading for Class 2:

Dick Higgins, “A Short History of Pattern Poetry”
Samples of Early Visual Poetry
Guillaume Apollinaire, Selections from Calligrammes (1912-18)
Russian Avant-Garde Books from the Getty museum (1912-14)
Stéphane Mallarmé, “One Toss of the Dice Never Will Abolish Chance” (1897)
Will Hill “The Schwitters Legacy” PDF
See samples of Schwitters’ Merz here.

Recommended Reading:

Bohn, Willard Reading Visual Poetry, Plymouth, 2011
Arnheim, Rudolf Visual Thinking, London, 1970
Drucker, Johanna The Visible Word. Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923, Chicago, 1994.
Perloff, Marjorie Poetry On and Off the Page. Essays for Emergent Occasions, Evanston, IL,1998

Assignement1: Create a text of your self-portrait in a shape that somehow relates to the poem’s content.

Class 2. Text as an Image. Futurism and Dada.

Revolution on the page as a reflection of the increase of speed, the page as a picture, page as sheet music.

Reading for Class 3:

Hayles, N. Katherine, Writing Machines (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002).
Henderson, Gretchen E., Galerie de Difformité (Evanston: Northwestern UP, 2011). Williams, Emmett. Sweethearts (Something Else Press, 1968, reissued 2011)

Artists’ Books OnlineThe Myth Of Democratic MultipleIliazd and the book as a form of artTom Phillips and A HumumentVladimir Erl, In Search of Lost Heif

Class 3. Book as a Visual Object. Samizdatat, found poetry and artist’s book.

Movement towards hand-made book, opposition to machine production and ideological connotations.

Assignement 1 is due.

Reading for Class 5:

Emmett Williams, Sweethearts (available at the COOP and on reserve at Hayden)
Öyvind Fahlström: “Manifesto for Concrete Poetry” (1955)
Eugene Gomringer: “Concrete Poetry” (1956), “The Poem as Functional Object” (1960),
“Silencio” and “Wind”Steve McCafferty, “Carnival” (1967-75) and introduction Poetry Plastique catalog PDF
Décio Pignatari, “beba coca cola” (1957) (optional)
Max Bense, “Concrete Poetry I and II” (1965) (optional)
Mary Ellen Solt, “The New Poet-Reader” (1968), Flowers in Concrete (1966) (optional)

Assignement 2: collect meaningful for you texts (old papers, walpaper, tickets, posters), put them together making unigue book. Reflect on the relations of the material and content.

Class 4. Field trip. Excursion to the Boston Athenaeum to visit Artists’ Books: Books by Artists.

Class 5. Concrete Poetry.

Word as an object and linguistic turn in arts.

Assignement 2 is due.

Reading for Class 7:

E-flux #29, 2011

Class 7. Conceptual Poetry. Grammar of the Space.

Reading for Class 8:

Lisa Swanstrorm  A review of: Jörgen Schäfer and Peter Gendolla, Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces and GenreRita Raley Writing.3D
David Small Illuminated Manuscript
Amaranth Borsuk Between Page and Screen
John Cayley Writing on Complex Surfaces
Dan Waber I, You, We
Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin Listening  PostDavid Knoebel Words in Space:Oh

Class 8. 3D Poetry. Writing in Space.

Reading for Class 9:

Perloff, Marjorie, “Screening the Page / Paging the Screen
BP Nichol: “First Screening: Computer Poems” (1984) and “Introduction” (2007)
Dan Waber’s “Strings” (1999)
Stefans, Brian Kim, “Dreamlife of Letters” (2000)
Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, “Dakota” (2002)
Kenneth Koch and Alan Lastufka, “A Social Life with Friends” (2010)
Eileen Myles, You Make Me Smell (2010)
Simon Barraclaugh, Three “heart” poems (2011)
Zuzana Husárová, “To Myselves” (2011)

Class 9. Kinetic Poetry

Animated text and ways of making the words move. Russian kinetic poet Dmitry Avaliani:
Collages with “turn-abouts”(“listovertni”)
Kinetic illustrations to Leonid Vinogradov “Horizontal verses”

Assignement 3: create an animated text using either of the methods discussed.

Reading for Class 10:

Vuk Cosic
about machine poetry. a manifesto for the destruction of poets

Class 10. Digital Poetry. ASCII ART.

Machine-made art looking machinelike.

Assignement 3 is due

Reading for Class 11:

Codings (catalogue). Pace Digital Gallery, NY. Curated by Nick Montfort
Sophia Brueckner code that sings itself
Pall Thayer Microcodes
Adam Parrish Autonomous Parapoetic Device (APxD mkII)
Nick Montfort Sea and Spar Between
John Cayley Epigraphic ClockGnoetry

Class 11. Poetry Generators

Reading for Class 12:

Machine LibertineTaras Mashtalir, PROTOTOROID
to listen hereto buy hereDmitri Strizhov & Taras Mashtalir
Explicit Lyrics60º LatitudePravda

Class 12. Multimedia and Soundscape

Adding volume with the help of sound.

Assignement 4: create a poem film or an audio poem.

Reading for Class 13:

Man Ray, L’Étoile de mer (The Starfish, 1928)
Kate Greenstreet, Trailer
Funkhouser and Hufnagel, “Grammar Girl” (2010)
W.S. Merwin, Separation (Grace Cho, 2010)
Jhave, Videos (2009-2010)
Doyon-Rivest and Gibbons, Like Wings Abandoned from Some Future Score (2011)
Interview with Swoon (2011) and embedded film “Night Vision” (2011)Class 10. Poetry Film

Poetry film: illustration, interpretation or remediation.

Assignement 4 is due.

Class 13. Final Exhibition and discussion.

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