Poetry makes language visual, emphasizing its ekphrastic potential to conjure images out of words. Sometimes the words themselves form images, as in concrete poetry, in which the mise-en-scene of the words on the page is essential to their meaning. Other times, the enjambment acts only to create a break in action, a pause. Other times still, the words spill out like long endless paragraphs, as in prose poetry. In all these cases, what ties these words together is a certain indefinable focus on the visual potential of language.
The reviews in this month's section highlight the unique interplay of the visual and verbal in art books, bringing to light the visual poetics of artist's publishing and the broader art book practice. Some are books written by artists, as with Aldrin Valdez's poetry, which collages language much like they do in their visual work, and Penny Slinger's Surrealist-inspired photocollage book. Others are collaborative image-text books, as with Roy DeCavara and Langston Hughes's The Sweet Flypaper of Life, in which the photographs and poetic narrative tell related, and sometimes contradictory, parallel stories about life in Harlem. And other books illustrate how poetry relates to other art practices, as with The Art Happens Here: Net Art Anthology, which examines the poetics of archiving digital materials and the way artists' use programming language to create artworks.
Poetry forces us to rethink what we assume to know about how language works. Art books likewise often push against what we assume the lines to be between art and book—artwork and object. In celebration of poetry month, I offer a selection of art books that share space with poetry in the realm of visual poetics.