Last night I held in my hand an advance copy of The Last Vispo Anthology. I had high expectations for Fantagraphics--designer, production team, printer, publishers Gary Groth and Kim Thompson; what I held in my hand was a quantum leap above my expectations. The cover is to die for, vispoems pop off the varnished pages, and the binding is sewn to last for years (if this is the last, we want it to have a shelf-life, eh?).
I want this to be the first of many toasts and huzzahs and hurrahs to Nico Vassilakis, my co-editor. Editing poetry publications for the last three decades has been a joy, but this experience has been particularly joyous. Kudos and hugs, Nico. We done good. A project conceived during or after several conversations with Geof Huth and Jim Andrews (as we prepared for an ensemble poetry performance in Seattle), has been over four years in the making. All that time and space--the sporadic back and forth, quiet and sparse and then furious, at a distance or face-to-face--buoys every page of this anthology. I look forward to the less-than-quiet times ahead as this book marches off into the world.
"To have a poetics is to know how it’s done," the site's heading proclaims. "To learn by knowing what you’re doing, and get that down, as awareness habit in practice or in language and graphics for the record. This page presents a paper and two poster texts trying to articulate some."
Crag Hill’s work inspires all who experience it. I use the word ‘experience’, not ‘see’ or ‘read’, because that is exactly what it is, a personal encounter that changes us on the inside, gives us a new understanding of language, letter, syllable and word. A single sentence or image cluster can speak in multiple ways; he gives us the freedom to interpret, and leads us into an alternate reality forged with fire and glowing iron.
Crag and I worked together all through the 1980s, both professionally and artistically. We used Crag’s knowledge of cameras and photographic techniques to create our shared oeuvre. I still remember discussing visual poetry in a cramped cluttered dirty little room underneath Mission Street, south of Market, San Francisco. Directly over our heads, while we babbled at one another, there were the sounds of walking feet, car tires, bus exhaust, camera vacuum and everything else you would find in a throbbing metropolitan center. It was all totally electric.
So, on to this series: diversity in unity, unity in diversity. This work makes me go up and down on my computer screen, stopping here and there to contemplate, even to laugh with giddy delight. What’s it made of? Primordial stew. Tomorrow’s neural nets. Conscious bacteria. Flaming future alphabets. Beautiful tendrils. New death. Everything flowing, reaching, sprouting. ‘Shih shih wu ai’- between things no obstructions. One of my favorite pieces is #14 Maw. White becomes the major focus, drawing your eyes, bursting over the space/tan background. The black, with just the right amount of visual weight, serves to ground it all. There’s rain, there are creatures raising their chins in both defiance and joy.
That’s Crag- defiance and joy. You see the defiance in his work, how he refuses to follow any fad or fashion, how he bends his materials to his own end, how he makes them laugh and cry. You see the joy in- well, everything. So check this out; all will become clear, and you will be the better for it.
Some of these poems first appeared in Bee's Wax, Word/ For Word, Mad Hatter's Review, Whitewalls, Poet's Corner, and in exhibits in the United States and Mexico.
P.S. Watch for The Last Vispo, a sprawling anthology, a Herculean effort, a mighty collection of postmodern visual poets from editors Crag Hill and Nico Vassilakis, out the chute from Fantagraphics, November, 2012. See http://www.thelastvispo.com/ for more info.