Concrete/Spatial Poetry

I decided on the title of this post hesitantly. Concrete and spatial poetry might be likened to poems that rely on shape and typographical space to add a new dimension to the words on the page. Perhaps the best way to describe is to show...

Click this link to view some of my poems that rely on space and shape for poetic structure. All except the last of these might be considered kinds of spatial poetry. "I Sail" and "Words" would be considered concrete poetry, while "Metaphysics" and "I hear you say, I hear" would be spatial poetry. Another example of concrete poetry would be "Gum Tree" by Jennifer Phillips. Some spatial poetry you may like is Richard Smith's "not so concrete" or the work of the Finnish visual poet Jukka-Pekka Kervinen.

I was hesitant in the title of this post because of how difficult it is to nail down these forms considering the amazing possibilities offered to poets by digital media. Take for example the code poetry of Ted Warnell. I asked him about his work and the relationship of the form and the content one time and he gave me a great answer: "The form is the content and the content is the form. The poetry is non-representational." And just as the form and the content are braided, the spatial and concrete elements are, in some ways, intertwined.

It's also interesting to think about how hypertext can work in poetry to create new possibility for a single poem. Have a look at a hypertext poem by Mary Hedger if you're interested. Hypertext adds a dimension of depth to the poem, a new space and a new poem for each reading depending on how you choose to click through it.

If you'd like to experiment with concrete, spatial, or other kinds of visual poetry, leave me a comment so I can check it out. I'd love to see what you come up with.


"Madam, I'm Adam...
Able was I ere I saw Elba."
(James Joyce, "Wandering Rocks", Ulysses)

A palindrome is a word or sentence that reads the same way forward as it does backwards. Aside from the one by Joyce above, other examples of palindromic sentences are, Dennis and Edna sinned, and Was it a rat I saw? Some examples of palindromic words are radar, stats, repaper, Hannah, and Navan (a town in Ireland to go with the James Joyce theme).

Along with single word and sentence palindromes, there is also a variety known as "word unit palindromes". For these, the words in the line form the same sentence when read forward or backwards, as in the two below:

"Escher, drawing hands, drew hands drawing Escher."
(John Meade)

"You know, I did little for you, for little did I know you."
(Patrick Robbins)

One other interesting type is the "line unit palindrome poem", a form in which lines of a poem can be read the same first to last or last to first. One of the most famous examples of this form is a poem called "Doppelganger", by James A. Lindon. Here's a short one that I've been working on:

In the land of Inside Out
I felt awash
in gentle rhythms
like a rinse cycle.
In gentle rhythms
I felt awash
in the land of Inside Out.

If you are interested in palindromes you might want to write some of your own. I find them to be a good writing exercise, and if you're able to write a poem that works together palindromic words, sentences, and line units I'll be thoroughly impressed! Leave me a comment so I can have a look if you give it a try.

Fan Fiction

Do you ever read a book and wish that it didn't have to end? Do you ever find yourself wondering what would have happened if some of the characters in a book had a conversation that the author never wrote? Well wonder and wish no more...

Fan fiction is a genre of writing in which fans of particular books, movies, TV shows, and games continue the story where the author left off in the original. I was introduced to fan fiction by a friend, Mist Shadow, who is an author on the site Harry Potter Fan Fiction. The amount of writing that has been done in response to J.K. Rowling's books and the Harry Potter movies is staggering, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that this is the most active kind of fan fiction around.

However if you take a look at the site, you'll see that many books have a very active fan base continuing to build the story. I was interested to find a category on Homer's Odyssey, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and even Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I thought that I'd try writing some fan fiction on this last book. I love this story and have always wondered what would have happened if Dr. Jekyll had embraced his inner Hyde, even cultivated the darker side of his alter-ego, and decided not to end his own life. Check back a little later and see the results of my experiment...

In the mean time, if you want to write some fan fiction of your own, leave me a note so I can check it out. The possibilities seem endless for having fun with this form of writing.