Concrete Poetry - R. P. Draper

poetry, poet, poem

In its simplest definition concrete poetry is the creation of verbal artefacts which exploit the possibilities, not only of sound, sense and rhythm--the traditional field of poetry--but also of space, whether it be the flat, two-dimensional space of letters on the printed page, or the three-dimensional space of words in relief and sculptured ideograms.

Taking advantage of the extra impact can be given to words by visual lay-out, of course, a common device in journalism and advertising. This is one of the skills of the graphic designer and the newspaper compositor, the literary equivalent of which is to be found in such devices of visual presentation as are used by George Herbert in "Easterderland, and by Apollinaire in his Calligrammes.

All of these have been widely cited as precursors, along with Mallarme, the Futurists, Joyce, Cummings, and others, of the more recent concrete poetry movement. But in what may, perhaps a little pretentiously, be called "pure" concrete the spatial element is essential to the communication, not merely something additional. It is a structural principle. As Stepehen Bann says, "Concrete Poetry is all too often confused with the "Calligrammes" of Apollinaire, and their modern equivalents in which lines of text are ingeniously manipulated in order to imitate natural appearances.

In "Il Pleut", for example, which is included of the movement, Apollinaire arranges his text in drifting vertical lines to sugest visually the effect of falling rain; but the poem could be printed conventionally as verse with scarcely any damage to its meaning. "Easter-wings" presents a more complicated instance, since Herbert's "wings" provide both an affect of visual wit (in the seventeenth-century sense) that is additional to the poem qua poem, and a stanzaic outline which controls the contraction and expansion of the line lengths to match the "fall" and "flight" which are the theme of the poem. In view of this second stanzic function of the shape "Easter-wings" is perhaps a true precursor of concrete poetry. There is still, however, a valid distinction to be made in that Herbert's poem achieves its necessary and essential effect even when read aloud.

One can dispense with the visual image because the flight metaphor is adequately created by that sound, sense, and rhythm combination which has already been defined as the field of traditional poetry. The visual effect of the mouse's tail from Alice, highly amusing as it is, can likewise be dispensed with. Indeed, it lacks even the controlling stanzaic function of Herbert's "wings".


Judul: Concrete Poetry
Penulis: R. P. Draper
Sumber: New Literary History, Vol. 2, No 2, Form and Its Alternatives (Winter, 1971), pp. 329-340, The Johns Hopkins Universtity Press

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