SIX POETRY COMICS COLLECTIONS TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
Poetry comics you say?
What does that entail?
Come explore a new way
where words & pictures smoothly sail.
Forgive the rhymes, but it’s National Poetry Month! While there are many ways to celebrate, what could be better than snagging some collections of comics poetry? Whether a lifelong Shakespeare fan or a curious gobbler of graphic novels, there is something for everyone in these six recommendations.
But first… what the heck is a poetry comic?
WHAT THE HECK IS A POETRY COMIC?
The answer to that is a bit murky.
While words and images have long been the bread and butter of comics work, poetry has only just begun to become a consideration for sequential art. Verse and comics haven’t been absent throughout the years, but this combo didn’t gain much traction outside of experimental and abstract works.
Most poetry “comics” were literal interpretations of the text, or closer to illustrations accompanying the poetry. It wasn’t as happy a marriage and didn’t use either medium to its full potential. The medium has only been taken into serious consideration within the last decade.
To get a better idea, one can turn to those who are actively trying to develop this art.
According to Alexander Rothman, editor for Ink Brick, the journal of comics poetry, and a comics poet himself:
“Comics poetry should balance freight between image and words. These elements are only doing work if they’re changing each other. Duplication is deadweight.”
So, whereas a comic can tell a story without words, a poetry comic must use words, but in a way that the two work in tandem and create something that wouldn’t be possible if separated. They take poetry’s play on language and rhythm with a comic's ability to show additional nuances beyond words to make something special.
Also, comics poetry isn’t necessarily made for quick consumption or to present a clear image. Whereas authors craft stories, in most cases, for the reader to understand a comics poem “asks us to walk a mile or two in someone else’s brain.”
So, typical things like panel borders, juxtaposed images, and word balloons may not necessarily appear in a poetry comic. They can tell a story, or simply evoke a feeling. It’s an exciting new addition to the sequential arts.
And now to the recommendations!
EMBODIED: AN INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST COMICS POETRY ANTHOLOGY
Editors: Tyler (@tylerchintanner) & Wendy Chin-Tanner (@wendychintanner)
Publisher: A Wave Blue World
A work combining the loves of A Wave Blue World founder Tyler Chin-Tanner and his wife, poet Emily Chin-Tanner, Embodied is an excellent first foray into the potential of comics poetry. This 200-page anthology reinterprets 23 poems from award-winning women and nonbinary poets in a stellar fashion. As the title suggests, these works seek to embody the spectrum of womanhood with poetry that focuses on everything from motherhood to military service.
To be blunt, the poets featured here are damn good. Multiple award winners and professionally published creators are featured on these pages, taking their already fantastic word work to new heights. Lovers of indie comics will be pleased to see these writers paired up with a plethora of indie darlings, like Jen Hickman, Liana Kangas, Stelladia, and Rio Burton, who all push their artistic talents to the limit. While the art follows the intense, flowing nature of poetry, most of it is down-to-earth and digestible. As a first dive into comics poetry, Embodied is as good as it gets.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
POETRY COMICS FROM THE BOOK OF HOURS
Writer/Artist: Bianca Stone (@BiancaStone)
Publisher: Pleiades Press
Gathering comics poetry previously published in multiple chapbooks and journals, Bianca Stone’s Poetry Comics from the Book of Hours is a marvelous blend of text and absurdist art. Stone’s writing is a fantastic balancing act, simultaneously being comedic and heartfelt. Topping off her unique poetic cadence with her surrealist visuals is what makes this book truly special. Everything from black and white ink art to collages and watercolors graces the poetry.
Outside of comics, Bianca Stone is a prolific poet, having three books of poetry published along with having work appear in the New Yorker, The Nation, and The Atlantic. She is the granddaughter of National Book Award-winning poet, Ruth Stone and is the Creative Director of the Ruth Stone House which seeks to further poetry and the creative arts. She is a founder of the journal of comics poetry, Ink Brick (stay tuned!).
Poetry Comics from the Book of Hours would also be an excellent first choice for mature readers (there is some nudity featured in the art) looking to jump into the comics poetry medium.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
ABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD: WORLD WAR I IN POETRY AND COMICS
Editor: Chris Duffy
Publisher: First Second
World War I is far removed from current events that many don’t fully grasp the horrifying conditions within the trenches. Death, disease, and vermin ran rampant and many soldiers found solace in crafting poetry about their experiences. Above the Dreamless Dead collects the most famous and vivid works from these trench poets and weaves them into the sequential art medium.
Beautifully crafted black and white art accompanies each poem withs style from cartoony to abstract acrylics. It is through the art that the heartbreaking poetry, darkly hilarious soldier songs, and novel excerpts give an intimate look into the survivors lives. This collection may not be for the faint of heart, it's very dark in spots, but if you’re ready to have your heart ripped out, give this book a read.
This book is brimming with talent from across the comics spectrum including Garth Ennis, From Hell artist Eddie Campbell, Kathryn Immonen, and Stuart Immonen. For craft lovers, each artist gives a brief description of their thoughts and process for each poem in the back.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
THE MOON FELL ON ME
Writer/Artist: Franklin Einspruch
Perfect for the webcomic lover, The Moon Fell on Me, is an online collection of nature-inspired poems with watercolor art. Much of the collection focuses on the little moments such as animals jumping across snow or weeds growing through concrete with the beauty in change being an overlapping theme. The art creatively experiments with the capabilities of online comics, having vertical scrolling ones akin to webtoons, but also having more traditional page layouts and even left-to-right scrolling comics. Tie this all together and you get a beautiful, easily digestible collection that can also serve as brief bits of escapist reading.
The creator, Franklin Einspruch, was a part of the growing movement to create comics poetry in the mid-2000s and published the first anthology of poetry comics, Comics as Poetry, in 2012. Einspruch is also an art critic contributing to The Spectator and The New York Sun and runs one of the longest-running blogs about visual art, Artblog.net.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
INK BRICK: THE JOURNAL OF COMICS POETRY
Editors: Alexander Rothman (@Versequential), Paul K. Tunis (@PaulKTunis) & Alexey Sokolin
Publisher: Ink Brick
Ink Brick is today’s biggest push to bring recognition to comics poetry. It was founded by Alexander Rothman, Paul K. Tunis, Bianca Stone, and Gary Sullivan, all noted cartoonists and poets, who felt that the idea of comics and poetry had enough similarities that they should coincide easily. Though now on hiatus, the journal has published ten issues since 2013 and features a wide approach to mixing sequential art and poetry. Because the medium is fairly young, everything from the extremely abstract to contemporary comics art grace these pages.
This journal may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if readers are looking for something a little different that features creators brimming with passion for this new medium, pick up a digital copy for an affordable price.