A History of Poetry Comics #02


Poetry comics are different than captioned illustrations or ekphrastic poems, which rely on someone else’s drawings for explanation/inspiration. For the most part, poetry comic artists create their own pictures paired with their own words. There are abundant and inspiring exceptions always, but there’s something about an artist showing their singular mind-thought that grabs and holds me.

Poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) created what he called “picture poems” drawing inspiration from Blake’s illuminations. I first encountered Patchen’s drawings in his Collected Poems, which I bought at a used book store in San Francisco in the early 90s. Scattered among the collection, starting about halfway, are hand-drawn poems often with lettering dominating the composition interwoven with modern-art-influenced animals and figures or chart-like illustrations. I wanted more!

Much later I found more in Patchen’s We Meet (New Directions, 2008) and The Walking-Away World (New Directions, 2008), which collected his out-of-print works from the…

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