The visual poems featured here are one part of a collection I’m working on called End of a Time of Intercepted Music, the title of which is a line borrowed from a Muriel Rukeyser poem.
In this set of visual poems, I’m interested in documenting chronotopic textualities of particular venues or situations (some of which I’m in by choice, some by obligation, some by chance, e.g., lectures, meetings, readings, galleries, cafes, transportation, etc.).
I create poems in which the texts and language of the particular timeplace infuse the creation and merge with the language I write to affect the composition—what I hear or see enters the composition, by varying degrees unfettered or manipulated. Later, I design the handwritten poems in InDesign, keeping somewhat faithful to the longhand version, but also allowing my memory of the composition and timeplace to color adjustments and modifications.
This set of poems is all black backgrounds with white or gray text. I mainly wanted to invent a process I could use that rejects linear or even linear-recursive (looping) composition methods—these pieces feel more concentric or intersectional or even communal to me, as I’ve taken to calling the style Meeting Poems, since they often get composed in meetings and pay attention to the convergence of multiple language sets in a specific place and time (and because I like dumb jokes).
The visual poems take up other compositional strategies I’ve been working on over the past few years, especially doing violence to language by breaking words into their morphemes and letters, which often creates a shadow poem or double, hiding in plain sight, which may, at the morphemic or broken “micro-line” level, add a different, unexpected register to the poem or create a shocking difference between how the poem might be experienced by a listener at a reading versus its visual presence.
As a book designer, I find that I’m often hyperaware of how type and letterforms come together—the schemes for which are tactical manipulations of more basic, highly recognizable forms—and the seeming inevitability of that coming together; as a poem designer, I find my interest takes the opposite tack and is more interested in breaking, in the inevitability of language falling apart or being trapped in a strange, interstitial state—manipulated to be caught between the recognizable forms that give language its power.
Steve Halle is a poet, publisher and teacher from Normal, Illinois, where he serves as the Director of the Publications Unit in the Department of English at Illinois State University, which supports literary journals like SRPR (Spoon River Poetry Review), Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora and small presses like FC2, Downstate Legacies, and PRESS 254, among others. The Unit provides hands-on experience for undergraduate and graduate students in editorial, design, production, marketing, and distribution. The author of the poetry collection Map of the Hydrogen World and the chapbooks The Collectors and Cessation Covers, Steve Halle's writing has been published in Action Yes, Another Chicago Magazine, Cordite Poetry Review, Deluge, Jacket2, Luna Luna Magazine, smoking glue gun, the Dirty:Dirty anthology, and elsewhere. Halle is the founding director and publisher of co•im•press, editor of the teaching chapbook press and workshop PRESS 254, and host of the Re:Verse reading series in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. In his spare time, he is a freelance book designer.