seiichi niikuni, visual poem


(Seiichi Niikuni, undated. Included without title in An Anthology of Concrete Poetry, ed. Emmett Williams (1967). Kawa (川) = “river”; sasu (州) = “bank”.)

arrigo lora-totino, visual poem

no no no no no no no no no no no no no no
no no
no    no no no no no no no no no no    no
no    no                         no    no
no    no    no no no no no no    no    no
no    no    no             no    no    no
no    no    no    no no    no    no    no
no    no    no       no    no    no    no
no    no    no no no no    no    no    no
no    no                   no    no    no
no    no no no no no no no no    no    no
no                               no    no
no no no no no no no no no no no no    no
si si si si si si si si si si si si    si
si si
si    si si si si si si si si    si    si
si    si                   si    si    si
si    si    si si si si    si    si    si
si    si    si       si    si    si    si
si    si    si    si si    si    si    si
si    si    si             si    si    si
si    si    si si si si si si    si    si
si    si                         si    si
si    si si si si si si si si si si    si
si                               si    si
si si si si si si si si si si si si si si

(Arrigo Lora-Totino, 1966. Included without title in An Anthology of Concrete Poetry, ed. Emmett Williams.)

ernst jandl, visual poem


(Ernst Jandl, 1964. Included without title in An Anthology of Concrete Poetry, ed. Emmett Williams.)


Un tempo
la mia vita era facile. La terra
mi dava fiori frutta in abbondanza.

Or dissodo un terreno secco e duro.
La vanga
urta in pietre, in sterpaglia. Scavar devo
profondo, come chi cerca un tesoro.

(Umberto Saba, from Ultime cose 1935–43.)

problems of a journalist

“I want to get away somewhere and re-read Proust,”
Said an editor of Fortune to a man on Time.
But the fire roared and died, the phoenix quacked like a goose,
And all roads to the country fray like shawls
Outside the dusk of suburbs. Pacing the halls
Where mile-high windows frame a dream with witnesses,
You taste, fantast and epicure, the names of towns along the coast,
Black roadsters throbbing on the highways blue with rain
Toward one lamp, burning on those sentences.

“I want to get away someplace and re-read Proust,”
Said an editor of Newsweek to a man on Look.
Dachaus with telephones, Siberias with bonuses.
One reads, as winter settles on the town,
The evening paper, in an Irving Place café.

(Weldon Kees, from Poems 1947–1954.)

chorus & hero

When it came it came with eyes
We could not close our eyes to escape its gaze
When it came it came with eyes that looked through our lids
That looked through our eyes     its eyes
Looked below the hair on our heads that did or did not blow
In the wind branching out of our brains the sky
Gathered in a cave where each one of us says I and I echoes
It came and gazed into us until it found itself staring back
When he returned from the underworld he thought his eyes
Were the same eyes he opened to the shades
His eyes dilated in the dark until he could see in the dark
The darkness opened in his head until his head could not contain it
He did not know night followed him when he returned
He could not see behind him     his children
Stared at him with his own eyes when he came home to see them
He did not know he was the danger they were in     the gods
Put vision in his eyes     he did not think he could not
See the difference long ago he notched the arrows he shot
Sometimes we see with our ears the blood on hero’s hands
Sometimes the hero walks out from his house with his hands held out
As if to ask us who cannot help but see
If these blood-covered hands are mine     are these hands mine
It’s hard to see in the night flowing out behind the hero’s head
If these hands are mine     if these hands are
Mine to close mine to turn palms up mine to bring close to my own head
To cover our eyes with the same hands we do not want to see
Ourselves looking at our hands
Children look through the mirrors their parents gave them for eyes
Tears come out the mirrors when they cry
The mirrors widen in the dark but in the dark show less
The mirrors widen in fear a little door in the mirror opens wider
We who gave birth to them live in a cave in their heads
A cave in which we watch ourselves as they hide
Behind a column or behind their mother’s robes     our children’s eyes
When a force moves through us
When our arms act because our minds command them
When our mind obeys our eyes     but our eyes 
Are not our own eyes     when we see as we are forced to see
When the command comes from the gods hiding inside the eye
Replacing our eyes with a vision
We do not say I     we say we     we say we did this     we did
This act     and when it’s worse     when it’s my hands
When these hands are mine     we don’t say we
We say it     we say it came upon me     a force none could resist
Soul or breath     god or madness     it acted in me
It came      and when it came it came with eyes

(Dan Beachy-Quick)

not only/but also

Having transferred the one to the other
And living on the plain of insistent self-knowledge
Just outside the great city, I see many
Who come and go, and being myself involved in distant places
Ask how they adjust to
The light that rains on the traveler’s back
And pushes out before him. It is always “the journey,” 
And we are never sure if these are preparations
Or a welcome back to the old circle of stone posts.

That was there before the first invention
And now seems a place of vines and muted shimmers
And sighing at noon
As opposed to

The terrain of stars, the robe
Of only that journey. You adjusted to all that
Over a long period of years. When we next set out
I had spent years in your company
And was now turning back, half amused, half afraid,
Having in any case left something important back home
Which I could not continue without,
An invention so simple I could never figure out
How they spent so many ages without discovering it.
I would have found it, altered it
To be my shape, probably in my own lifetime,
In a decade, in just a few years.

(John Ashbery, from As We Know.)

(from canto li)

12th of March to 2nd of April
Hen pheasant’s feather does for a fly,
green tail, the wings flat on the body
Dark fur from a hare’s ear for a body
a green shaded partridge feather
 grizzled yellow cock’s hackle
green wax; harl from a peacock’s tail
bright lower body; about the size of pin
the head should be. can be fished from seven a.m.
till eleven; at which time the brown marsh fly comes on.
As long as the brown continues, no fish will take Granham

(Ezra Pound, from Canto LI.)

the corrupt text

The child is feather to the man;
mice don’t brood. The swiftest race
to the pie. In the sky an encomium
rewards all who notice it.
This isn’t the way I meant to live
but I must or will have to move.

In broader streets the video preference
startles a dozing anomaly—“Come again?”
I just did. I want it to be all clean
and tasting of only distance and water.
There is a stairway in my pocket
and pheasants on the railway
and all I ever had was to be yours,
your instructor. Again I fell for it,
his pencil sharpener. Over time that
made him quite difficult and complicated.

Now is only sun, sunstrife and sea.

(John Ashbery)

mildred pierce

What happened was that as Mildred’s expanded, the food we were asked to eat was just too much, too fast. At first it was a pleasure; the fried chicken, in particular. We sat at checkered tablecloths and were careful not to spill the gravy or make crumbs – the set dressers were vigilant, and among the meanest people at the studio. The coffee was good, too, very hot, but we were not permitted to blow on it because this action distended our cheeks, and consequently many burned their mouths, without grimacing of course.

But the plot called for more Mildred’s, more chicken, more scalding coffee, and also those mile-high cream pies, the kind no one makes anymore, as if they were prohibited. Why not make a pie so tall it cannot fit anywhere but a Hollywood set? But even the pies began to wear on us. The variety helped – pumpkin, apple, and the myriad creams: pineapple, banana, lemon chiffon – however many of us began to fall ill. Those who fell sick nonetheless showed up for work, because work was not plentiful, and in addition to our wages we were eating well; but the eating was difficult enough without feeling sick.

Then we had to travel, to the Mildred’s at Laguna Beach, to the many Mildred’s in the booming Valley – often in one day, at one meal even. The script would call for chickens down south and pie back north. The choice assignment was Beverly Hills, but soon they stopped serving food there altogether and used it only for the office scenes. While Mildred was working in Beverly Hills, we were eating everywhere else, keeping the money flowing, the business booming. The plot necessities were clear, but none of us could see how it could last.

And it didn’t last. Not enough mouths, not enough chicken, not enough pie to pay for all the costs associated with the now ubiquitous Mildred’s. An entire population was eating, but it wasn’t enough. It would take the end of the war, returning soldiers, big new families, to eat all the food this plot required. Before that could happen they killed off the principals, closed the set, put us out of work. Then we missed the chicken and coffee. I remember arguments about which Mildred’s had been the best, which pie, which gravy with the fried chicken. These were long, impassioned bouts of nostalgia for a set the likes of which we would never see again, food we could only recall in black and white, that looked so good we could never be sure we had ever really tasted it.

(Damon Krukowski, from The Memory Theater Burned, 2004.)