The Visual Poems in The Parlour represent the work of students in undergraduate creative writing courses I taught at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver/ Burnaby, BC in fall of 2009 and 2010. In each of the courses, the making of a Visual Poem was the mid-term “exam.” My motivation in designing this assignment is to push students off the page and out of the classroom. In the process of figuring out ways to represent their original work in the visual realm, students also practice reading their work aloud and establish a relationship to an audience and the community.
2009: In the first iteration of this assignment, students were asked to represent their poems visually and document their visual poems interacting with the public in some way. Projects that year ranged from writing poems in the sand on a popular beach, to reading a poem on the SkyTrain during rush hour, to writing a persona poem in the voice of a phone booth, then making a poster of it, and taping it on a phone booth. Each of the projects was accompanied by photos/ videos documenting and interpreting public response and interaction. Humor contributed significantly to these students’ work, and during the in-class presentations, awe mixed with mirth.
2010: The second time around, students were again asked to make a visual representation of one of their original poems, though I omitted the obligation to create a “public interaction” component of the project. Perhaps because we had read Todd Boss’ Yellow Rocket and watched some of his Motion Poems (a project he co-founded), the majority of students made videos representing their poems. Interestingly, though students had not been directed to interact with the public, each of the projects contained elements of artistic collaboration, which by extension, build audience and community. Grand!
Many students moan and groan rather loudly about being asked to do this assignment. My sense is that working in unfamiliar territory causes anxiety about being judged (after all they are being graded) and fear of not measuring up. However, without fail they each end up making something that surprises and interests them. The day students present their projects in class, the air is filled with anticipation, excitement, and celebration. We all thrill in witnessing how imagination has been enacted in the visual. In the wake of the presentations students are transformed, walking with new swagger and taking more risks in their class participation and work—and dare I say it, their lives.
Enough about the process! Now, I invite you to click, sit back, and take in the innovative, moving, and powerful Visual Poems of Simone Blais, Joshua Gibson-Fraser, Janet-Elizabeth Hosak, and Taryn Hubbard.
Jami Macarty is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts poetry fellowship and has an MFA from the University of Arizona. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Volt, Contemporary Verse 2, Drunken Boat, and Interrupture. Former Executive Director of Tucson Poetry Festival, 1996-2005, she now divides her time between the Arizona desert and Vancouver, BC, where she teaches poetry at Simon Fraser University.
by Simone Blais
Artist's Satement: For me, this project evolved into a form of poetic catharsis. I was carrying around the weight of a looming date on the horizon - the one-year anniversary of a dear friend's passing - and it was a tough load. I knew writing a poem in honour of Mia Thomas was inevitable; doing her justice seemed daunting, however. The words were part of the initial purge, and assembling the visuals felt like picking up shards of broken glass. I am deeply indebted to Lora Frost, whose animation skills made the work come to life. She recognized that pieces of torn fabric, no matter how frayed, can be stitched together to make a beautiful quilt.
by Joshua Gibson-Fraser
For this visual poem I began by searching each word in Google Images in hopes of finding images that accurately represented each individual word, but what was more interesting to me was how the search results usually had very little to do with the word in question. With that in mind, I decided to search each word and use the first image result that came up, regardless of actual relevance, which is why the video is titled "Google Interprets My Poem." Given that they are found images, it is important to note that I am in no way the creator of the pictures that make up the content of this video poem.
by Janet-Elizabeth Hosak
Making Naked was an extremely cathartic process for me. With the help of Paul Romein and Trixie Pacis I was able to face my fears and bare all.
Any and Everything
by Taryn Hubbard
I am interested in many aspects of the internet, especially online forums. While looking at a section on craigslist called strictly platonic, I found posts of people looking for people. I took those words and created classifieds posters out of them to post around downtown Vancouver.Music by Aaron Moran.
Simone Blais is a recovering journalist in the process of trading in the inverted pyramid for poetics and prose. Her poems have appeared in Other:____ Magazine. She lives in B.C.
Joshua Gibson-Fraser was born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1979. He currently lives in Port Moody, British Columbia where he divides his time between the pursuit of his Bachelor Degree at Simon Fraser University, a successful marriage with his wife Agnes and long walks at 5am with their dog, Shadow.
Janet-Elizabeth Hosak has lived in Vancouver her entire life and she attends Simon Fraser University where she is studying to become a sex columnist. With a fervent love of adventure, it is her life’s goal to travel the world and live to write about it.
Taryn Hubbard is a writer from Vancouver with a B.A. in English, and a Certificate in Creative Writing from Simon Fraser University. Her writing has been published in CV2, subTerrain, and OCW Magazine.
Jami Macarty is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts poetry fellowship and has an MFA from the University of Arizona. Her poems have appeared in many American and Canadian literary journals, including Cimarron Review, Volt, Contemporary Verse 2, Drunken Boat, Interim, and Interrupture. She is former Executive Director of Tucson Poetry Festival, 1996-2005, and now divides her time between the Arizona desert and Vancouver, BC, where she teaches poetry at Simon Fraser University.