Poetry Northwest’s Photography Issue
The Spring & Summer 2013 issue of Poetry Northwest is dedicated entirely to the relationship between poetry and photography. “Faced with the endlessly replicable image-clutter of the digital age, do words retain their image-making power?” asks the magazine’s editor Kevin Craft. His conclusion?
To judge by the evidence herein, poetry and photography get along very well as sister arts. Out of instances in time, both produce a legible artifact. Ekphrastic rapture, tangential extension, allusive juxtaposition, homage – these are just a few of the means by which poets bring the photograph and its fictive, fugitive frame into view, and vice versa, while hybrid forms like “pho-toems” or “poemgraphs” convince us the word is, indeed, flesh. And flash. And bone. It may be that the proliferation of images in our time has reduced the classic 1000:1 picture/word ratio to a rough equivalency.
Much of the issue focuses on poetry about or inspired by photographs, but there are a number of examples of word/image combinations. Several poets – C.D. Wright, Lewis Warsh, Joshua Edwards, Jennifer Firestone – write about the inclusion of photographs within their books of poetry, sometimes through collaborations with visual artists. Writer Andrew Zornoza reflects on the legacy of Georges Rodenbach‘s seminal Bruges-la-Morte. Paisley Rekdal’s essay “Forms of Kitsch: On Poetry, Loss, and Photography” addresses her photograph-laden, fictionalized memoir of photographer Edward Curtis called Intimate. Jill Magi defines the four ways in which she sees images and poetry working together.
There are also several examples in which the poem is, quite literally, embedded within the photograph. Poet Elisabeth Frost and visual artist Dianne Kornberg have collaborated on several portfolios of work in which images and text are blended. Tim Johnson (who currently runs the Marfa Book Company) photographs found fragments of texts. And Jen Benka (who became the Executive Director of the American Academy of Poets last year) photographs pages from poetry books in public places (see her Tumblr blog). In recent months I have seen several such examples of blended photography and poetry and will be writing more about this before long.