“I learned so much using words and pictures and captions from some of the most concrete poets, because poetry is all about economy, and it’s about reducing things down, and you’re seeing how much freight you can actually give words. Plus, the great thing about comics which I miss when I’m writing prose, is knowing that I can pretty much guarantee that everybody will read every word. I can pace everything, every caption, every line of dialogue.”—Neil Gaiman on Studio 360
Kenneth Koch was a poet who loved comics. Backwards City Review just reprinted some of his comics in their second issue. I tried desperately to find Koch’s posthumous collection, Art of the Possible: Comics Mainly Without Pictures, in a Cleveland Public Library, and turned up nothing. Then, lo and behold, Google Print has the introduction and a few pages online.
In the introduction, David Lehman writes about Koch,
“letting comics into his literary imagination followed not only from his love of the humorous, the whimsical, and the witty, but from an aesthetic point of view that could be charactreized as defieantly antiacademic.”
Koch saw no reason why Popeye shouldn’t enter the same conversation as T.S. Eliot. In one of Koch’s courses on imaginative writing at Columbia, the assignment was to go out, buy a comic strip, and without reading it, paste white paper over the balloons, and write your own dialogue.
“In 1992, Kenneth decided that not only could he borrow subject matter or adapt a narrative technique from comics but it might be possible to write poetry in a new form based on them.”