During the reign of Constantine the Great, the Roman senator and poet Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius was sent into exile for crimes unknown. He succeeded in regaining favor and his good name by composing a series of poems in praise of the emperor which looked like nothing else. His poetry was an evolution of the Greek tradition of pattern poetry, but he took it a much more complex level, as Arrigo Lora Totino explains. In an illustrated article, John Stephan Edwards goes through the poetry of Porphyrius, showing the evolution of his craft.
"these little songs, and many like them, were made for the comfort of my friends, in their sorrow, doubt and suffering"
An internet search, even in these days of abundant information, yields only that the pamphlets can be found in various library collections, and that they continued to be produced into the '70s. And that Edmund Wilson once sent one, "Mr. P. Squiggle's Reward," to Nabokov, calling it "one of the oddest of many odd things that are sent me by unknown people." He also got the title wrong, dubbing it "Mr. P. Squiggle's Revenge," which is probably significant. But that’s it: nothing about Volk or McCalib.Epitomes was a series of pamphlets published by Elwin Volk and Dennis McCalib. Few traces of Volk's life are to be found, but he seems to have been a lawyer, and wrote at least a couple of pamphlets about law, which he self-published in Pasadena. McCalib is equally elusive. A man by that name contributed to an issue of One: The Homosexual Viewpoint in 1964. A Dennis McCalib also used the pseudonym Lord Fuzzy. The aforementioned "Mr. P. Squiggle's Reward" got a curt, two half-sentence dismissal in Poetry Magazine, otherwise these pamphlets seem not to have troubled the literary world. Someone donated their manuscripts to UCLA where they rest undigitized in fourteen boxes. But Library of Congress has scanned a total of twenty-six pages in high resolution.
"Robert Montgomery works in a poetic and melancholic post-situationist tradition. He makes billboard pieces, recycled sunlight pieces and drawings." This one's my favorite but I like others too. Here are a few more examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Frank O'Hara was a New York poet, even though he lived less than half of his 40 years in the city. He grew up in Grafton, MA, was a sonarman in WWII and roomed with Edward Gorey at Harvard before moving to the city he would forever be associated with. Naturally, there was am article on him in The New Yorker a couple of years ago. We're lucky enough to have a number of videos of O'Hara, including a reading of the lovely "Having a Coke with You. There's also quite a bit of audio of him, and I can't but recommend this mp3 of John Ashbery, Alfred Leslie, Bill Berkson and Michelle Elligott reminiscing about O'Hara at the MOMA, where he worked. And there are quite a few of his poems available online, as well as five of the poem-paintings he did with Norman Bluhm. [more inside]
Visual Poetry Today collects various forms of visual poetry, today. It includes Peter Ciccariello, who wraps text around computer-modeled landscapes. [more inside]
Artists' Books Online is a collection by the University of Virginia of artists' books. Artists' books are works of art that take the form of books and are often both text and visual art. Either way, they're awful interesting to look at. Here are some artbooks to get you started: How to Humiliate Your Peeping Tom by Susan Baker, The Word Made Flesh by Johanna Drucker, Life in a Book by Francois Deschamps, A.A.A.R.P. by Clifton Kirkpatrick Meador, opuntia is just another name for a prickly pear by Todd Walker and Black Dog White Bark by Erica Van Horn
Vispo is a site dedicated to visual poetry, both static and animated, run by Jim Andrews (though there's also a sound section). Among my favorites are bpNichol's First Screening (made in Hypercard), poem game Arteroids, the works of Ana Maria Uribe, Oppen Do Down (warning: audio starts immediately), Enigma M, strings and a selection of typographic works by Clemente Padin
Is this poetry? How about this, this or this? They're all examples of visual or concrete poetry, which has a long history. The modern version grew out of Lettrisme and helped give birth to the worldwide mail art movement. Two leading visual poets, Uruguayan activist Clemente Padin and Argentinian Edgardo Vigo, both had serious run-ins with dictators during the 1970s. The huge Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry puts gem after gem at your fingertips. Another great collection: Brazilian Visual Poetry. [more inside]