Graphic Poetry: The Poem as Comic Strip

Talk about when two worlds collide?!! (via The Comics Reporter)

The Poem as Comic Strip
Graphic novelists let loose in our archive.

Heightened language–one possible or partial definition of poetry–isn’t the first thing one associates with comics. Yet comic book artists take into account the way words appear on the page to a degree poets will find familiar. How many lines should accompany each image? How high should the dialogue balloon float? The ratio of printed words to blank space plays a role in whether a poem or strip succeeds.

The best of the daily humor strips (think Peanuts) have produced thousands of word-and-picture episodes that occupy about the same thought-space as a good short poem; the terseness can resemble haiku. Then there is Krazy Kat, George Herriman’s polyphonic masterpiece that appeared in William Randolph Hearst’s papers from 1913 to 1944 — a comic feature so blessedly idiosyncratic in its dialects that the only way to start making sense of what’s said is by reading it aloud, like a poem.

As a way to help readers discover (or rediscover) our archive, has invited some of today’s most vital graphic novelists to interpret a poem of their choice from the more than 4,500 poems in our archive, reaching from Beowulf to the present.

I love this idea!

I often compare poetry to comics (on many different levels) because I spent five years on stage performing my own poetry and/or conducting seminars on poetry to audiences in venues ranging from smoky bars to public schools and private colleges to industry conferences. There are many parallels, but as The Poetry Foundation correctly points out, artistically, they are kissing cousins.

I’ve often toyed with the idea of seeking out artists to collaborate on graphic interpretations of some of my poems, and the first (and only) comic book script I ever wrote was based on one that I’m hoping one day a certain Mr. Overaker might do me the honor of illustrating.

So yeah, I love this idea and the first effort, David Heatley’s take on Diane Wakoski’s 1966 poem “Belly Dancer” is a great start. Go, enjoy, bookmark.

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