Scamble and Cramble
Two Hep Cats
and Other Tall Tales
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Are these just sketches or what you consider finished, Joe? They appear like notation to me. A quick taking down and charting out of an idea. Like story-boards.
This is less like concrete poetry and more like the good old-fashioned cartoon strip.
One wonders if in exploring the visual side of signs, of the word, and punctuation, and you feel you have artistic limitation, you might try to incorporate photography, even cut-ups and collage to get at your ideas. There are other ways of working visual elements. One might have a very good eye for design and not necessarily be able to draw well. There’s a definite sense of design you have, when I consider older posts where you experimented more freely with arrangement of text down a page. I recall the Kafka bloc post, for one. That was a while ago and it still sticks in my mind. One thinks of Apollinaire’s Calligrammes.
There should be more pop with an image, not so much overall sameness. That’s the one criticism I have of “first impact” coming across your images for Scamble and Cramble. Too much overall sameness, running to a kind of blandness. It’s like the same old white t-shirt, worn again and again. Scramble and Cramble might rebel by leaving little treats not in their litter box. Don’t they deserve a better environment?
Think of Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (I adore Sendak); Max misbehaves and is sent to his room, where the bed is, symbolically a boat or ship – the portal into dreams, and everything is transformed into another world. A jungle grows before his eyes. It’s an old formula, found too with Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, but it works. I was also thinking of the great old movie The Incredible Shrinking Man, how the entire perspective on the world changes for the man who is shrunken down. I imagine you that size walking across an open book of poetry, wearing all black and literally getting lost in a word, blending in as you follow the curve, and then to cross over to another word, emerging into the white and becoming a punctuation mark; a breeze blowing in and lifting the page, and you sliding down to the crease. Contemplating your Hep Cats figurines of wood, I also think of a number of old school stop-motion animations. It would be fantastic if you could actually convert your Hep Cats into an animation, but that would take an incredible amount of work.
In a nod to the wonderful title of your blog, The Coming of the Toads, I leave you with a fantastic animation by the legendary stop-motion puppet animator Ladislaw Starewicz entitled “The Frogs Who Wanted a King”. The quality of the video is very poor but the enchanted world created by Starewicz is just so marvelous! I love this stuff so much. It’s not for no reason I linger here and give you more what I think about all this, Joe. This is the area I myself should be working in more. I myself have ideas for children’s books for adults too.
Thanks for the Ladislaw Starewicz referral, John. I had not seen it. Very early stop motion. Great color (green shades), even if that’s not what was intended. … As for my “comics,” just sketches. I sat down this morning with a cup of coffee and with just the idea of the cats’ response to the book and knocked that comic out. The drawing in this one is below even my low standard. Awhile back, a friend told me about Jessica Abel & Matt Madden’s “Drawing Words & Writing Pictures: A definitive course from concept to comic in 15 lessons.” It’s first an exercise in patience. I’m still not through it. But it seems that comic artists have styles, and that style is not necessarily related to verisimilitude or even drawing talent. But it is time consuming, not really my forte, nor my greatest interest. I first got interested in comics as books with some loans from this same friend: Mimi Pond’s “Over Easy“; also Gipi’s “Notes for a War Story” and Modan’s “Exit Wounds.” I had been aware of graphic novels (aka comic books), but was struck by the economy of expression and seriousness of purpose in these books. And I discovered Marjane Satrapi . In a way, it’s good I’m not an accomplished drawer or painter. I don’t know any of the rules. I can name the primary colors, and I know what happens when you mix yellow with green. So I’m what one of my neighbors calls “an outsider.” He talks about “outsider” art. Outside what? Outside everything: the academy, the galleries, the accepted and anointed and talented – though not necessarily blessed. I do worry that the comics may turn readers away from the blog, first look – last look. I originally just posted them to facebook. Then I read about Kirill Mendvedev, and how he turned away from trad publishing, gave up his copyrights, and started writing poetry as posts on Facebook. … Added later: I’ve been a doodler over the years. Might have majored in doodling, or at least a minor. Is doodling an art form?
“Doodles” might be a good character to add, which chases after Scamble and Cramble, and they both get all tangled up in. Cat’s with yarn, you know. At other times Doodles turns into a snake, a lasso, or stretches itself high above like a tightwire. At epiphanies, doodles shapes itself into more complex forms, delightfully witty – I’m thinking of the wonderfully playful wire sculptures of Alexander Calder. Sometimes, without knowing it, you already capture something of Calder’s creative spirit in these doodled out drawings of yours, Joe.
I would like to try a mobile like Calder did, but you need a special studio for that sort of work. I like Matisse and Miro and Chagall for that lasso and cutout idea you mention, tightropes and high-wires, and bold colors. I’m reminded of this Ferlinghetti poem:
Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Constantly risking absurdity
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of day
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
for what it may not be
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
to start her death-defying leap
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)” from A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems. Copyright 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1958)
I love the Ferlinghetti poem, Joe. Isn’t that the truth of what’s in play and the risk involved for one who attempts a poem. It’s a necessary part of the trade for a poet to embrace nonsense and absurdity, or to learn to live with it. The guy who lives in the apartment directly below me works as a manager at City Lights Books here in San Francisco, co-founded by Ferlinghetti. It’s a wonderful bookstore, one of the best I’ve ever been in, not spacious but coolly inviting and full of character for its size.
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Saw City Lights years ago. I like the pocket poet series, early beats. Not been to SF in awhile.
You might have another character named Typo the black magician, practitioner of the dark arts, or to soup up the name into a fittingly bombastic latinism, “Typo Grammaticus”, who causes errors, such as when I wrote “Cat’s with yarn”. Through Typo errors and mistakes occur, sometimes subtle, sometimes glaring, misplaced punctuation, wrongly spelled words. What drives Typo crazy and chases him off into the margins is when errors he causes don’t lead to annoyance or artistic catastrophe, but are rather used as leaping off points for continued creativity. Typo Grammaticus has a duel with Doodles. I wonder what that would look like.
I imagine a play off Genesis: In the beginning was the doodle and the doodle took form. Out of the cloud Doodles was born and he dwelt in the garden of paradise. And out of Doodles came, and so forth. And so forth encountered Typo Grammaticus in the dark deep and was scattered. And a race of all manner of strange figures were formed, lost and unsettled, coughed up in disarray, not yet finding a place and order. They made no sense.
…and then a lot of begatting going on… and Doodles begat Typo who begat Grammaticus who begat sense