“The poem is an image passing through the mirror…”

As we’ve seen over the last several days, April is all about poetry. From experimental lyrics to bawdy limericks and everything in between, National Poetry Month promotes poetry education and inspires the awareness and appreciation of poetry for people from all walks of life. As part of our celebration here at The Porcupine’s Quill, we’ve asked artist Steven McCabe, author of this upcoming wordless poem, Never More Together, to tell us about how his visual artistry can be ‘read’ as poetry. His very poetic response came in the form of the following self-interview, which exposes a thoughtful and unique philosophy of poetry and artistry.

Never More Together Cover

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While asking myself how my book Never More Together (a wordless poem of linocuts) relates to the larger issue of poetry I gave the answers permission to travel wherever they wanted to go.

How do images contain the rhythmic intonations of an expressive voice?

With shapes and visual balance.

How does an image suggest that moment of invisible vibration where the voice might pause?

Tone, contrast and resonance communicate negative and positive space, rushing to pollinate any void.

Symbols meet texture in a relationship spanning theory, time and eras bringing gravitas to the page.

How is an epic poem like an image?

With line and movement. The stories of an ancient past extend invisible realities into song. Singing like electricity before electricity was discovered.

How is a poem like a city?

By mirroring its inhabitants. As the lights go off in a city one by one a new sound emerges of all that has gone before. Missing words, animals, plants, and civilizations are replaced by images containing new information.

When is surrealist poetry inevitable?

The fantastical crosses dimensions employing the mechanics of depiction. Poetic images illustrate being.

How does surrealist poetry pulse and aim within a sequence of images?

The narrative line calls for a response, summoning persona, questing, transmitting erotic signals. Light hollows any false reflection.

Upon a dense, flat surface of slight depth, pictorial revelations are carved and manipulated. This lack of depth is like the surface of a lake or a page. The alchemy of poetry transfigures a blank page into a sequence of comprehension. The process of transfiguring dross and creating gold is recorded two dimensionally.

How is visual surrealism an aspect of alchemical poetry?

As the linocut is ‘read’ the pulse transfigures. Surrealism speaks of fragrance and desire. Alchemy embodies fragrance. As with surrealist images the alchemical poem juxtaposes both human need and the impossible.

Subconscious language is dream: entwining both image and word within a process as natural as the elements.

Directed by original idea & mind (an element); one carves into linoleum, digging, gliding, excavating, designing images to be inked, printed and surrounded by whiteness.

Does the whiteness surrounding the image suggest perhaps a missing fragment of verse?

Perhaps momentarily if seen in slow motion like a falling leaf.

Which forms of musicality fill the blankness pressing in on the image?

Ancient heartbeats and chanting suffuse the space ‘holding’ the image.

Linocuts (in the historical manner of woodcuts) evoke instruments built by hand and the tradition of craft. One builds a poem with craft and visceral experience. One builds a poem of the human race; the ultimate defiance of dread.

Carl Jung is quoted as saying in times of crisis we revert to primal symbols.

Since its earliest beginning as chronicler of the epic a type of shorthand has evolved. This alphabetical alchemy, culturally recognized as poetry, connects to the body politic as social architecture. Ecology and psyche blur in the composition of the wordless poem. The alchemical juxtaposes with the social.

Stanzas and passages translate visually in an atmosphere of memory. The most powerful poems come from a place of hypnotic seeing. Images float in a psychic space of precognition: poetic pictograms.

Handprints on the cave wall evolve though various historical alphabets into lines on a page, hammered like steles of old into receptive ground, marking the landscape.

Blink your eyes while you turn the page and you have early cinema.

The poem is an image passing through the mirror.

—Steven McCabe

Steven McCabe

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Thanks to Steven McCabe for his willingness to share his thoughts on the intersection between poetry and image. Don’t forget to check out Never More Together, available soon!


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.