Friday, June 20, 2008

The poetry gutter

I am hungry for writing. My metaphorical stomach is growling.

Grrrr….

Instead, I have been baking bread and riding the bus and riding my bike and picking up the car at the mechanic's and watering the garden and hanging out on the floor of the basement bathroom with the cat and driving the cat back to the vet to check on suspicious symptoms and applying warm compresses and giving medicine to the cat and putting the new, larger, harder cone collar back on the cat and drinking wine and reading about comics.

The book is Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, by Scott McCloud. I didn't realize that comics were invisible; I've always found them to be quite visual and therefore visible—but maybe the book will explain this. I'm reading it for work (!), and I haven't finished it yet, but I have learned something:

That space between the panels is called the gutter, and it's very important because that space is what kicks the imagination into gear. The mind must fill the gap, make the transition between panels, to "connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality."

I read that, and I thought, "Wow, that's like poetry!"

We have the obvious spaces, or gutters, between the stanzas, and the mind or the imagination must make its own connection between them is required. Even when a line carries across a stanza break, the mind must still stretch to understand the significance of that space.

But a poem often contains spaces within a stanza, even within a line, places where the mind must fill in the gaps in its own way. Or spaces where the mind must reconcile the idea of the gap—that it's there and it won't be filled in.

I hadn't looked at it that way before.


And I think there are also books that combine poetry and comics (you probably know of some—do you?). Maybe I should check those out next.

9 comments:

jeannine said...

Yes!
Dorianne Laux just had a chapbook come out called "Superman." Atwood and Lucille Clifton both wrote Superman poems.
Of course, (cough cough) Becoming the Villainess is chock-full of comic book poetry...
I'm sure I'll think of more after I post this...
Also, there's been some great fiction books lately that have incorporated comic books stuff. Atwood's The Blind Assassin, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay...
Your book sounds fascinating! Post a summary when you're done if you get a chance :)

K. said...

I'm not a huge consumer of graphic novels and I don't know of any that use poetry, but I highly recommend these two:

Maus, Art Spiegelman
PersepolisMarjane Satrape

How do you like L. A. Confidential? Are you an Ellroy fan?

Joannie said...

Jeannine--
Of course I thought of you immediately. And I loved Chabon's novel. But I was also wondering about poetry done in a comic or graphic novel format (graphic poetry?).

Summary of the book: He could have used an editor (and yes, I'm biased). He makes some good points, and the graphical treatments are interesting, but he goes on and on and on over each idea (maybe to allow more drawing?). The information about the gutter and the transitions of time and space that the mind fills in between panels was my favorite part. He also presents an interesting discussion of idea/purpose versus form.

K.--
I've heard of Maus but haven't read it yet. I did read Persepolis, for the same book club that was reading L.A. Confidential. I admit that I am not an Ellroy fan, and I put the book down after 145 pages, deciding that life was too short to spend with that much violence, bigotry, and abject hatred. However, last night's book club discussion convinced me that I should pick it up again. Apparently, I haven't yet met the two best characters. Are you an Ellroy fan?

Premium T. said...

I like some Ellroy books more than others. LA Confidential is probably his best. It's the third book of a tetralogy, but the first that he wrote in that ultra-clipped tabloid style.

jeannine said...

I've been thinking about a poetry "graphic novel" too. I think that would be great, but you'd have to find some kind of hybrid publisher who understood both graphic novels and poetry.
I think the poetry foundation had some graphic artists do illustrations of a few famous poems, some time ago?

jeannine said...

I've been thinking about a poetry "graphic novel" too. I think that would be great, but you'd have to find some kind of hybrid publisher who understood both graphic novels and poetry.
I think the poetry foundation had some graphic artists do illustrations of a few famous poems, some time ago?

Joannie said...

T.--
I did pick it up again yesterday and am faring better with it. I really struggled with The Black Dahlia, even though I loved the name.

Jeannine--
I stopped by Open Books yesterday and picked up a copy of Poetry Comics, a book of poetry-comic postcards by Dave Morice. Are you familiar with his work? (I'm not; it's the beginning of an adventure.) The publisher is Teachers and Writers Books.

K. said...

Hi, Joannie--

That's actually been me logged in as T. commenting on Ellroy. The Black Dahlia was inspired partly by a real case and partly on the unsolved murder of his own mother. It's the first book in the tetralogy, followed by The Big Nowhere, then LAC, and completed by White Jazz. While each novel introduces new protagonists and a new primary narrative, they are linked together by a power struggle within the LAPD by two recurring characters.

K. said...

I should add that I was surprised to see LAC on your reading list because Ellroy doesn't exactly try very hard to appeal to women.