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Poetry With a Painterly Eye

Hyperallergic shares the intersect between poetry and visual art.

Sometime last century, the British artist Bryon Gysin — himself a pretty interesting poet — quipped that “writing is 50 years behind painting.” The conceptual poet-provocateur Kenneth Goldsmith has gotten a lot of mileage out of that idea, using it to justify a copying-based poetics that name-drops Duchamp’s readymades and Warhol’s mass reproductions. But the two arts aren’t really in a race; if poetry sometimes adopts methods from the visual arts, as in Lesle Lewis’s bold, pictorial, and abstract poems, that’s less a matter of playing catch-up than of using the other’s vocabulary to extend poetry’s reach. And sometimes, as in Lawrence Giffin’s work, a fairly straightforward verbal idiom can help us penetrate the depths of a very abstruse visual language.

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