6° International Meeting of

Experimental, Sound & Visual Poetry




. Visual Poetry: from Joan Brossa to Iberoamerica .

Patricia Delmar



Aware of the challenge that means to summarize an essay on an extensive and exciting subject as the Visual Poetry, I will try to represent a flash view that simply accompanies the visitor of this great International Exposition of Visual Poetry, with over 170 artists from all over the world. An ideal environment to let oneself get carried away by the look, by the tempting atmosphere and by the winks provoked by many of the works from where they were placed. This is an occasion to celebrate –audience, artists, specialists and organizers- a miracle such as the existence of the Visual Poetry in our time. Just think about its validity , about the contagious effervescense that makes an exposition like this possible; it is a encouraging  sign.


Borges insisted on looking for metaphores that shake our imagination. We are here before the culmination of the metaphores, where communication is recognized in its pure state, the absolute freedom of language, the amazing field where reality and possibility, unreality and impossibility, likeness and unlikeness  get involved.


It is touching to think of all the poets that have profoundly influenced the Visual Poetry with different proposals. I make a peculiar reference here, from John Keats, another brilliant paradigm, considered the XIX century odes and sonets greatest romantic Englishman. Almost a visual poem, this verse reads on his tumb: Here rests one whose name was written on the water.


After reading many analysis and essays, I bring some definitions for the Visual Poetry, taken from its writers. Here are some juicy notes...


"...poetic metalanguage of the writing that turns around the ideo grammar", according to Canals.


'...Creations about spaces surrounding the mark , including suggestions, winks  and sense suggestions."


"...Poetry does not give  its elements, for example words, semantically nor esthetically, through the ordinary making of lineal  and grammatically ordered contexts, but it rests against visual connections. This was expressed by Juan Carlos Romero, one of the argentine visual poets and promoter of many exhibitions of this discipline –suchs as today’s- who sustains Max Bense’s theory, co-founder of the Concrete Poetry movement. According to Bense the word is not used as intentional support of the meaning, but also as a material element of a composition, mutually conditioned and expressed."


"...the art of seeing poetry in things, expressing them through sculpture."


Certainly, this last approach could generate controversy. But it will only be another issue that arises controversy. The thing is to be able to understand what we see and appreciate. What we read and feel. The connotation of the Visual Poetry is somewhat tangled up in its historic and philosophical essence, but it deserves to be widely treated.


So we have to plunge into its time line, into its track to observe the rich iconography of its authors.


Before dealing with Joan Brossa, the maximum responsible to dive in this multidiscipline language in Spain –who also died as our pope, Edgardo Antonio Vigo some years ago- I consider it convenient and almost automatic, to move ourselves to the remote cradle of the Visual Poetry, exactly to one of the events that changed the culture in every way at the beginnig of the XX century, I am refering to Dadá movement.


Dadá seems to transmit enthusiasm and happiness to those who live with passion the world of art and literature. I have always thought this was such because of its meaning in the sensation of freedom that arised from this group. Some of his assertions about the work of art, the audience or the creation are still valid. And they are, without doubts, the roots of our theme. In the United States, the Dadá movement had prospered thanks to Marcel Duchamp, -essential artist and the basis of what then would be conceptual art- who presents his first ready made, as the maximum expression of the antiartistic fact. Duchamp’s position is that the work of art is no longer created, but an entity or fragment is chosen among everyday objects. The artist is not the one who paints or sculptures, but the one who chooses the object, not for its esthetic or symbolic quality, and is transformed on art as it has been favoured over many other elements.


Then we will see Marinetti’s influence. It is interesting to analyse his remark about the typographic revolution, radical antecedent for the Visual Poetry), where he questions the plastic space of the page and says: "we will use in the same page twenty typographic characters if necessary".


In those futuristic years, precisely in 1919, Joan Brossa was born, a poet in the widest sense of the word. For Brossa there did not exist genre nor borders in the arts. We will see in Brossa one of the keys of the Visual Poetry: the relationship produced between the word and the image.


From the beggining, his objects come from the trasnfer of the writen word to the seen image. Then, the objects as well as the work, due to his poetical conception, resist to be considered within the coordinates  of the plastic.


Spain multiplies his presence in magazines and limited editions, successively. There is an explotion for experimental poetry and visual poetry, as demonstrated by Urogallo. Or by the expression “It’s over”, when in 1975 a prestigious commercial publisher publishes internationally “The writing is free”.


Also, during the 70s, the necrological  idea of the art appears. In Spain, Ignacio Gómez de Liaño announces the death of the visual and concrete poetry, which could not become concrete, fortunately... This kind of funeral ceremonies increased and in Argentina, Luis Felipe Noé annunciates the death of painting. These were times to reconsider creativity, times of philosophical meditation and of rebellion. However, between life and death of poems and art, different groups and artists continued to appear, preserving creativity, giving place to new theories, to new languages. In Brasil -specially-, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico... apart from Argentina and Spain, of which we have already dealt with their roots. Vigo made emphasis on the natural integration towards what he called “a plastic with sounds, towards a music with plastic shapes, a poetry to see and another to hear, a cinema that uses real time, a slide theatre.


In the context of propagation and documentation, I have to emphasize the work of Vortice Argentina, of Fernando García Delgado and Juan Carlos Romero, who have carried out a meticulous and difficult task in organizing, collecting and recording what this international expositions suppose, to further completing their virtual registry, a valueless information source for those who study and feel close to the history of the culture of our time.


Finally, I venture to point out a circumstance that makes the Visual Poetry still preserve the freshness and poli philosophy of its elaboration: it does not depend specially on the market. It is beyond the sale line; its productions form a parallel way that many of its makers must face  in the world of galleries, museums, fairs. Including criticism. They are beyond being protagonist, beyond fame. They continue independently, they tied up in a sub-world of solidary and friendly exchange, of international gathering, of open diffusion, of roads which become avenues. They still blow air of freedom in this blue cosmo of the Visual Poetry.