Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

wrestling with angels

May 8, 2010

Stuart Hall compared the theoretical work, the work of the academic or intellectual, with a struggle using the metaphor: “wrestling with the angels.” He added: “The only theory worth having is that which you have to fight off, not that which you speak with profound fluency.” Its a curious image Hall uses here. Tracing it back to Jakob’s biblical struggle with an unknown, who might have according to various interpretation been a man, an angel or God himself, shows that the meaning of the story is ambiguous. Jacob, after having wrestled with the angel all night, overcomes him, but then asks him for his blessing.

Furthermore, Satan himself was an fallen angel, who according to Milton in Paradise Lost used his abundant rhetorical abilities and persuasive powers for his own purposes, with long lasting consequences, as we all know. Was Jakob wrestling with a fallen angel, or an angel who would fall, after all? To muddle things up further William Blake later reversed the meaning of Heaven and Hell and stated that Milton “was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

So who is the theorist, according to Hall, wrestling with? Hall leaves the interpretation to the reader, “you can take as literally as you like,” he says. I think “wrestling with the angels” is a great metaphor, and I may use it to preface my PhD thesis, if I ever manage to finish it. My night of wrestling with the angels is not over yet.
Stuart Hall (1992)  Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies (originally published in Cultural Studies, ed. Lawrence  Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Paula Treichler. New York and London: Routledge, 1992


digital storytelling

April 9, 2010

Parisian Love is a promotional video by Google. Made in the vein of Michael Wesch’s videos I cannot help liking it. It is is really well made.

the red book

September 23, 2009

Here the New York TImes have a fascinating report about Carl Jung’s private notebook with personal reflections as well as drawings, which has been kept from the public until now.  He worked on the Red Book for a period of 16 years, and ever since his death it has been locked away. Now, for the first time it is going to be published.

<click to enlarge>

Carl Jung said the Red Book stemmed from his “confrontation with the unconscious,” during which visions came in an “incessant stream.”

“I should advise you to put it all down as beautifully as you can — in some beautifully bound book,” Jung instructed. “It will seem as if you were making the visions banal — but then you need to do that — then you are freed from the power of them. . . . Then when these things are in some precious book you can go to the book & turn over the pages & for you it will be your church — your cathedral — the silent places of your spirit where you will find renewal. If anyone tells you that it is morbid or neurotic and you listen to them — then you will lose your soul — for in that book is your soul.”

Wow, this is intriguing. I might have mentioned before, that many years ago I researched the visonary writings of Jakob Boehme, a German mystic, who had visions, and who is thought of as the first German philosopher, e.g. by Hegel. > On my Christmas Wish List!

via Austin Kleon

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe

July 3, 2009

ive seen things

Recently I have been thinking about  the scene of the final showdown between Deckard (Harrison Ford) and the replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in the Blade Runner, and its poetic ending. This film had  a powerful impact on me when I saw it in a cinema in New York’s Lower East Side, when it first came out in 1982 and when I watched it several times after that in the following years. Fast forward to over twenty years later, when I started reading film theory and realized that it was not only me who thought highly of the film, but that it is considered a film classic. 

This scene can be found in multiple YouTube versions, however watching the brief clip online seems a bit sad and cheesy. Not at all the same experience as watching it at a time of the cold war, on a big cinema screen. Time, place and medium of distribution make a difference on the reading experience.

tangled alphabets

May 1, 2009
Detail from Letter to a Genera 1963, by Leon Ferrari

Tangled Alphabets is a current exhibition at the MOMA in New York about the work of Mira Schendel and León Ferrari, There is also a publication. 

León Ferrari (Argentine, b. 1920) and Mira Schendel (Brazilian, b. Switzerland, 1919–1988) are considered among the most significant artists working in Latin America during the second half of the twentieth century. Their works address language as a major visual subject matter: the visual body of language, the embodiment of voices as words and gestures, and language as a metaphor of the worldly aspect of human existence through the eloquence of naming and writing. They produced their works in the neighboring countries of Argentina and Brazil throughout the 1960s and 1980s, when the question of language was particularly central to Western culture due to the central role taken by post-structuralism, semiotics, and the philosophy of language. Although their drawings, sculptures, and paintings are contemporary with the birth of Conceptualism, they are distinctively different, and have not yet been exhibited in their entirety in the United States.

The exhibition can be viewed in detail also through an interactive flash site.

Detail from Objetos Graficos by Mira Schendel, 1972

This piece is really a sculpture, and should be seen large. I love the way the alphabet swirls out of the vortex, a galaxy in the making, a big bang. In biblical cosmology “in the beginning there was the word,” in Asian cosmology in the beginning there was the sound, the AUM. Here we have vision of how the language and signs came into being.

The Letter to the General above is beautiful piece of calligraphy in an imaginary script as a part of a series of “deformed writing”. It reminds me of “pretend writing” – emergent writing of children. Apparently the artist said “it is difficult to write a ‘logical’ letter to a general” so there we have a play with nonsense and mystery.

See also Shaker visual poetry, love letters and the slow act of writing.


May 1, 2009


I discovered this multidirectional poem by Amelia Walker – it can be read left to right or down the columns on the first issue of verbeatehim. It is called “garden”.

Through her website I found out that she also does poetry and performance workshops with children and it seems she has great ideas. I wonder how the poetry pets work. Here is also a neat little warm up exercise for writing poetry with children:



April 16, 2009
Young Femme With Stickbild Jeanne (AK Junge Frau mit Stickbild Jeanne)

Is this not a lovely picture? This is a vintage postcard currently available on eBay. A combination of some things I like – photography, embroidery, vernacular creativity, womans’ crafts, (subversive) cross stitch. See some earlier postings: petit point and women reading, cross stitch text message and more digital petit point.

typographic trees

March 25, 2009

tony green – accumulations & rosemary and other tony green work in this set from jim leftwich’s photostream

On a larger scale is the work of Gordon Young and why not associates – a series of typographic tree sculptures situated throughout the library building in Crawley.


See and read more on CR Blog:  A Library Full of Dead Trees and here at

pictures and poetry at play: (7) henry walks to paris

February 28, 2009

I really love the designs and movie credits by Saul Bass. But this is a children’s book by Saul Bass, apparantly the only one he designed: “Henri’s walk to Paris”is outof print too, but you can get to see a lot of it  on this Flickr set”Henri’s walk to Paris”  




Some more recent Saul Bass inspired opening sequence of  movies are “Catch me if you can” and the credits of “Lemony Snicket”. I found some of the title sequences on YouTube, you really have to see them on a big screen, the mini versions don’t do them any credit.  I think I enjoyed the very long five minutes of end credits of Lemony Snicket End as much as the whole film. 

cross stitch

February 28, 2009


Embroidered Text Messages

A whole series of cross stitched text messages. It is worth reading them all, nice story and I will not tell you whether there is a happy end.

pictures and poetry at play: (4) dada and type

February 23, 2009

These two books don’t promise much from their cover.  However their authors Kurt Schwitters and Ernst Jandl, the design is contemporary by Sabine Schmekel. The publisher calls them typographic picture books. Dada poet Kurt Schwitter wrote several books for children, this  one is based on a whimsical poem first published 1928. Ernst Jandls is my favourite German language poet. Some of his poems have made it into school textbooks, and they are fun for adluts and children.

Review from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Doppelnippelsks
Doppelmoppel. Typographisches Bilderbuch des Gedichts 
Both out of print, Jandl’s book is not even available sevond hand.


pictures and poetry at play: (2) playground games

February 20, 2009



Lovely idea for a picture book: concrete poetry for children in Outside the lines: poetry at play by Brad Burg. Unfortunately it seems out of print right now.

Check out his website for more stuff, including a page for teachers.

complete works

February 10, 2009


Concrete poem by bpNichol.
There is nothing to add.
Its that simple, really.

But if you want to read more, read about an anthology of bpNichol’s poems here: More Than Just Alphabet Soup

easter wings

February 9, 2009


George Herbert, Easter Wings/ The Temple (1633)

More about historical visual poetry:  How do we define Visual Poetry (and letter-inspired art) by Phillip John Usher

“Our understanding of visual poetry means that words and letters become plastic; they are (perhaps) also signifiers, but they are first and foremost objects: they “are” before they “mean,” suggesting they take on a life of their own. And yet words and letters never totally escape their linguistic sounds and meanings-hence the games our mind plays when we view visual poetry, caught-as it is-between different ways of viewing. It’s a bifurcated road: should I read, or should I see? How do letters and words get in the way? How do they confuse (in the strongest sense) the image?” 

shaker visual poetry

February 8, 2009


Shaker Visual Poetry found on this great website full of resources Ubuweb

An excerpt: “Between 1837 and 1850 (“known as the Era of Manifestations”) the Shakers composed (or were the recipients of) “hundreds of … visionary drawings … really [spiritual] messages in pictorial form,” writes Edward Deming Andrews (The Gift To Be Simple, 1940). “The designers of these symbolic documents felt their work was controlled by supernatural agencies … — gifts bestowed on some individual in the order (usually not the one who made the drawing.” The same is true of the “gift songs” and other verbal works, and the invention of forms in both the songs and drawings is extraordinary, as is their resemblance to the practice of later poets and artists.”

stair poetry

February 7, 2009


Walking stairwords by Geof Huth

Geof Huth painted some visual poems on the  staircase of his house, made from the private family language and kidspeak. It has several stanzas, the third one on the ceiling over the staircase.

I just love this idea, and I wished we were back in our house in London, where I hated having to climb up and down several sets of stairs all day long. I could have made a simple poem with four stanzas! I would prefer a poem, which is rhythmical, and can be memorized. This reminds me of my childhood, when we used to stay at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather would take me and my brother to bed upstairs, and every night walking up the stairs he would say the same counting, rhyming nonsense poem. I used to love that part, it made climbing up the stairs and having to go to sleep fun.

A staircase poem allows to connect the movement of the body through time and space with the rhythm and music of the words.

frost and steam

February 7, 2009


Geof Huth, “at last” (3 January 2009)

Geof Huth, “one steams” (24 January 2009)


February 4, 2009


The visual poem of the full alphabet is a fun read:   A (An A), Analphabet, by Geof Huth

lolcat literacy and alphabet books

February 3, 2009


On Amazon reviewers are raving about the stylish design and play with typography of  The Well-Lettered Cat  by Porter Evans and Edward Fierro, a book “for fans of felines, fonts and fiction” according to the publishers. “Each kitty character sports his letter as a springboard for a journey through literature, history, mythology, and entertainment. This volume is rich with visual and intellectual energy.” “This fascinating book is also a wonderful lesson in type and design. Each page continues the storyline of the cats as they go from Avant Garde to Zapf Chancery (typefaces) with loads of unusual words using the alphabet letters. A most interesting combination of words and art.”

Not sure weather to believe all that, but I cannot help liking the tag line by the publisher Rampant Press “Where Words, Art & Paper Collide & Collude.” It seem it this their only book and they do graphic design as their day job.

All this just proves my point about locat literacy and I guess I just have to add this alphabet book to my recent ABC book list.

alphabet books

February 1, 2009

I have been researching picture books for a research project in primary schools. I made a long wishlist, and unfortunately it would cost a small fortune to buy them all. Here are some interesting looking alphabet book  by various designers, artists and classic children’s book authors. Some are  driven by the art and illustration, some by typography, others even include a narrative.

1. Charley Harper’s ABC’s


2. An A to Z Treasure Hunt by Alice Melvi

I like the concept of this book, which requires children’s participation. From the blurb: “Many pages require an object to complete them, and so the hunt begins…for postage stamps, fruit stickers, tea bag tags and a favourite view, amongst many others. This illustrated interactive alphabet book allows each child to create a finished book unique and personal to them. Only when the reader has contributed to every page is the book finished and the treasure hunt over!” 


3. Neues ABC-Buch by Karl Philipp Moritz, illustrations by Wolf Erlbruch.

Unfortunately most of them will not work in German. However there ist this one: Neues ABC-Buch by 18th century writer and poet  Karl Philipp Moritz from 1790. Here are some webpages dedicated to the original version, including the original drawings. This is a contemporary version with illustrations by Wolf Erlbruch. The cover does not appeal to me so much, but  I read some good reviews about his work and it looks like an interesting choice. Erlbruch created unusual picture books, which I plan to explore more.



4. Bruno Munari’s ABC 

Bruno Munari’s ABC : From the Amazon blurb: “Beginning with an “Ant on an Apple,” illustrations, simple text, and a pesky fly who will not stay on his page introduce the letters of the alphabet.

Bruno Munari is a well known designer, who also wrtoe about design.I like this quote:

“‘A thing is not beautiful because it is beautiful, as the he-frog said to the she-frog: it is beautiful because one likes it.’ Bruno Munari 


5. The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni 

Leo Lionni’s Alphabet tree: From the blurb: A strong wind blows most of the letters off the alphabet tree and those that remain hide among the branches. Then a bug and a caterpillar  come along and teach them  how to arrange themselves into words and sentences in a gentle parable about the power of the written word. 


6. ABC: The World of Eric Carle

ABC: The World of Eric Carle and his animal alphabet seem to be published in both English and German. There are also animal flash cards available. 


7. Roy Lichtenstein’s ABC

Roy Lichtenstein’s ABC: .“Roy Lichtenstein, one of the primary artists of the pop art movement in the 1960s, has revamped the alphabet with his own attitude and style. With his combination of popular imagery and “high art” that borrows the techniques of advertising and the comics, Lichtenstein revivifies the alphabet with playful and entertaining art and refreshes the ABC for art lovers and letter lovers alike. This was the last book the artist completed before his death. ”


8. ABC Pop! by Rachel Isadora

ABC Pop! by Rachel Isadora “With a tip of her hat to such ’60s icons as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg, Isadora whips out a zinger of an ABC book. Baby boomers will find this artistic homage a nostalgic hoot, while their offspring will appreciate its verve.” 


9. 3D ABC by Marion Bataille.

Last but not least e a short and brilliant video introducing the 3D ABC by Marion Bataille.


the image is the mother of the word.

January 9, 2009


das bild ist die mutter des wortes

Das Bild ist die Mutter des Wortes

I made another visualisation of a quote by Hugo Ball, in German  “Das Bild ist die Mutter des Wortes.” (the image is the mother of the word.) on RoboType.

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