Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros1Actualité de la recherche“Le poème visuel dans les Amériqu...

Actualité de la recherche

“Le poème visuel dans les Amériques, xxe-xxie siècles”

Université de Lille, April 6-8, 2023
Juliette Bouanani

Entrées d’index

Haut de page

Texte intégral

1The international conference “Le poème visuel dans les Amériques, xx-xxie siècles” took place on April 6-7, 2023 at the Maison de la Recherche on the campus of Université de Lille. It was organized by Hélène Aji (ENS Ulm), Mario Álvarez (Université de Lille), Nathalie Galland-Boudon (Université de Bourgogne), Paul-Henri Giraud (Université de Lille), Antonia Rigaud (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Modesta Suárez (Université Toulouse - Jean Jaurès). On April 8 attendants visited the LaM (Lille Métropole Musée d’art moderne, d’art contemporain et d’art brut). Keynote lectures were delivered by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Rae Armantrout (University of California, San Diego), Mica Gherghescu (Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Georges Pompidou) and Mexican visual artist/poet Alberto Blanco. This event resulted from a national network dedicated to the links between poetry, literature and painting in the Americas and was supported in part by the Institut des Amériques. Opening the conference, Fiona McCann (Université de Lille), Paul-Henri Giraud and Hélène Aji highlighted that the symposium highlighted the commitment of CECILLE (Centre d’Études en Civilisations Langues et Lettres Étrangères) to transdisciplinary research about the Americas. The notion of visual poem was thus considered from a multilingual (English, Portuguese, and Spanish) and transnational perspective, welcoming participants from a wide range of institutions and countries.

2Hélène Aji then introduced plenary speaker Rae Armantrout, reminding the audience that the poet is one of the founding members of Language poetry. Aji also referenced the 2016 publication of Partly: New and Selected Poems, 2001–2015, a sum of Armantrout’s recent work, and her latest collection titled Finalists, which came out in 2022. Armantrout’s presentation, entitled “Edges of the Legible,” focused on visual poems written by Ari Wolff, Susan Howe, Douglas Kearney, and Robert Grenier. Armantrout also discussed William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow,” highlighting the fact that even if the poem isn’t usually thought of as a visual poem, analyzing it from this perspective reveals Williams’ awareness of the potential of the space of the typewritten page. According to Armantrout, visual poetry calls attention to the way we make marks on a medium. The poet also commented on some of her own pieces such as “Hate,” “Exact” and “Findings,” shedding light on the tension between concept and image that is inherent to her writing process.

3The first session, chaired by Modesta Suárez, was opened by Sergio Fregoso Sanchez (Université Paul Valéry – Montpellier 3). His paper, entitled “E X I T O : la poésie visuelle du mouvement Estridentista” presented this Mexican avant-garde movement in its historical and cultural context, underlining its revolutionary ambitions. Sergio Fregoso Sanchez questioned the boundaries of visual poetry: can the movement’s manifest be considered as a poem? What about book covers? His presentation introduced the recurring theme of the political potential of visual poetry and highlighted the Estridentistas’ desire to transform Mexican society through art. Samantha Lemeunier’s (ENS PSL) comments on William Carlos Williams’ poetics also challenged the common definition of visual poetry. Indeed, Lemeunier showed that if William Carlos Williams isn’t considered to be a visual poet, his work is nonetheless deeply involved with visual arts. Her presentation titled “From visual to visionary poetics: William Carlos Williams’s scopic revolution” revealed the hybrid nature of his poems by focusing on “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say” in the light of Instrumentalism, as popularized by René Ghil (1862-1925) in Mercure de France. Her close readings emphasized Williams’ visionary perception of language. In “La apropriación artística en la poesía visual-experimental de Juan Luis Martínez” Leonello Bazzurro (Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick) studied the Chilean poet’s use of different sources in his work. Juan Luis Martínez’s visual techniques ranged from collages and photomontages to artist’s books. They frequently borrowed from various types of texts such as the Bible, advertisements, or other poems as well as from visual arts. Bazzurro showed that Martínez’s method of “apropriación” served different purposes, from parodic homage to the repoliticization of preexisting works of art in the context of Pinochet’s dictatorship.

4Following this trilingual session Laure de Nervaux-Gavoty (Université Paris Est Créteil) introduced Anne Reynès-Delobel (Aix-Marseille Université), Andrea Pitozzi (Università degli Studi de Bergamo) and Xavier Kalck (Université de Lille). In “Retour sur les readies de Robert Carlton Brown,” Anne Reynès-Delobel studied the transatlantic modernist writer’s experimental poems. She credited the instrumental work of scholars such as Craig Saper in the recent circulation of Carlton’s works and ideas. Robert Carlton Brown’s “reading machine,” Reynès-Delobel noted, was not a mere utopic concept but a real object, printing text on ribbon-like paper. Orchestrating language in a radically new way, Bob Brown’s machine and the “readies” that resulted from it blended a new technology of information with the form of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons (1914). Anne Reynès-Delobel remarked upon the critical opportunities opened by this avant-garde medium that brought an alternative to the traditional codex form. In “Forms of erasure as visual poetics,” Andrea Pitozzi explored the links between erasure and visual poetry and presented a wide range of texts to the audience, ranging, to name only a few, from Charles Bernstein’s Veil (1976) to Kenneth Goldsmith’s Gertrude Stein on Ponctuation (1999) and Jen Bervin’s Nets (2004). The “multimedia experience” of erasure, Pitozzi argues, highlights not only what is left to read on the page but the very process of erasing and its significance. Using the example of Ronald Johnson’s Radi Os (1977), in which Milton’s Paradise Lost is partially blacked out, Pitozzi illustrated a specific type of erasure through the transformation of a preexisting canonical text. Pitozzi broadly categorized different ways in which erasure works, namely at the political, poetic, and aesthetic level. In Xavier Kalck’s ““All that’s left is pattern”: les pictogrammes iconoclastes d’Armand Schwerner,” Anne Reynès-Delobel’s mention of Brown’s interest for the potentially “hieroglyphic” nature of the written word was actualized. Xavier Kalck focused on Schwerner’s The Tablets, composed between 1968 and 1991, in which an invented anonymous researcher studies made up Sumero-Akkadian inscriptions. This parody of a scholarly volume is comprised of said “tablets,” proposed translations, and the comments and musings of the erudite. Schwerner’s tablets, Kalck noted, are an extension of the modernist interest for the evocative power of archeology and the later poetic taste for ethnography in works like Charles Olson’s Mayan Letters, published in 1953. The visual nature of the ancient signs also echoes futurism and Concrete poetry. All in all, The Tablets are, according to Kalck, an indirect product of the sum of 20th century American poetics. He also remarked that by the end of the book the researcher/translator’s work becomes increasingly meaningless and underlined the playful and sometimes even humorous nature of Scherwner’s unusual book.

5The next day, Antonia Rigaud (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle) presented plenary speaker Mica Gherghescu (Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Georges Pompidou). Mica Gherghescu opened her presentation entitled “Exposer la poésie visuelle - kits pratiques” by using the image of “constellation” to describe her approach. Gherghescu’s words and selection of works took attendants on a journey through concrete and visual poetry. She drew attention to the challenge of exhibiting these literary objects within the space of the museum. Indeed, Gherghescu noted that many of the pieces associated with concrete poetry are based on intermediality and meant to be not only seen but experienced. In the case of anthologies of experimental poetry, which became increasingly popular in the 1950s, the editor’s role resembles that of the curator’s but the approach is closer to traditional books. The boundaries between anthology, artist’s book and exhibition catalogue aren’t clear cut. Between Poetry and Painting (1965), edited and curated by Jasia Reichardt, is a crossover between catalogue and anthology, for instance. According to Gherghescu, some of these objects are like portable galleries, mise en abimes of the space of the museum. Others require interaction and cannot be properly experienced and understood without being touched. It is difficult to both protect and display the full potential of patrimonial hybrid works of art. The practical questions raised by Gherghescu’s presentation invited participants to reflect on the complexity of the nature and materiality of visual poetry.

6This engaging discussion was followed by the first panel of the day, moderated by Xavier Kalck (Université de Lille), who introduced Juliette Bouanani (Université Paris Nanterre) and Fiona McMahon (Université Paul Valéry – Montpellier 3). Juliette Bouanani’s presentation, entitled “‘Print misfortune’: Susan Howe et l’effacement de l’expérimentation visuelle d’Emily Dickinson,” focused on Howe’s writing about the multiple editions of Dickinson’s manuscripts. Susan Howe contends that Dickinson’s poetics has been “domesticated” by a series of editors who have regularized key aspects of her innovative visual poetics. This critique of academic interference encourages readers to pay close attention to veiled dynamics of power. In this context, the notion of erasure becomes both material and ethical. Howe’s discourse on Dickinson’s visual experimentations reveals her own desire and conditions for literary posterity. In “The Neo-Avant-Guardism of Found Poetry in Contemporary North American Visual Poetics,” Fiona McMahon draws attention to the theme of the trouvaille, as introduced in the early twentieth century by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), who was repeatedly named as a model for visual poets during the conference. This precedent is closely linked to the avant-garde experimentations of “found poetry” and is still visible today. Studying works such as Shane Rhode’s X : Poems and Anti-Poems, Derek Beaulieu’s How to Write (2010) and Susan Howe’s Debths (2013) and more recently Concordance (2019), McMahon showed that past avant-garde modes of appropriation are renewed in the hybrid era of contemporary visual poetics. Highlighting the transformational and potentially defamiliarizing dimension of visuality in a series of texts, her paper led to a reconsideration of new iterations of found poetry.

7During the fourth session of the conference, chaired by Anne Reynès-Delobel (Aix-Marseille Université), Émilien Sermier (Université de Lausanne) also mentioned Apollinaire but focused more specifically on the calligrammes, as they were a source of inspiration for Vicente Huidobro, the Chilean poet he studied. His paper was titled ““Ma lyre aux sept couleurs.” Les écritures francographiques de Huidobro.” During his years in Europe, Huidobro produced francophone visual poems that Sermier called “francographiques.” He noted that Huidobro’s poetry is regrettably poorly known in France and Europe, even though he was active in the Parisian milieu of the avant-garde in the 1920s. Sermier contended that Huidobro’s visual poetic experimentations reflected his desire to be visible in his circle. Far from being a mere follower or imitator, Huidobro pushed visual poetry in an idiosyncratic direction that deserves attention. In keeping with the theme of pushing the boundaries of visual poetry, Pierre Thévenin (ENS Paris-Saclay) presented “Les dactylopoèmes et les audiopoèmes d’Henri Chopin, une poétique surnationale de l’espace.” Chopin’s rich work, in the context of interactions with international neo-avant-gardes, illustrates two tendencies of concrete poetry. Indeed, the French author’s poetic experiments with sound and vision question preconceived notions of conceptual poetry. Some of the dactylopoems are exhibited in the white space of the museum, bringing them closer to visual art and further from books, whereas his sound poems can be experienced in the dark. Thévenin remarked that the “audiopoèmes” are also spatial creations, since the soundtrack is a material object, and that sound fills space. Chopin’s dual work, Thévenin argues, brings the discussion of conceptual poetry outside of the confines of the book.

8The next session was chaired by Mica Gherghescu (Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Georges Pompidou) who introduced Gissela Mate (Université de Montréal) and Vinicius Caro (Université de Lille). In her presentation entitled “La Poésie Concrète, un hymne à la vision ?” Gissela Mate demonstrated that concrete poetry could lead to a reconsideration of the very act of reading. Mate remarked that our modern vision of reading is almost entirely based on its potential “benefits”: acquiring new information and being able to share it with other speakers. This goal-oriented and technical interpretation contrasts against other models. Mate reminded the audience of the medieval conception of interacting with the written word, according to which reading is a physical process in which readers incorporate the text through a series of action. Gissela Mate raised a series of questions : how does visual poetry engage the body beyond the eye? Are other senses secondary and neutral? If concrete visual poems are meant to synthetize all aspects of experience through vision, reading them becomes particularly efficient. Mate remarked that reading visual poetry is deeply sensorial and could, in that respect, contribute to a redefinition of the modern vision of language. Vinicius Carneiro studied the role of translation in Brasilian concrete visual poety in “Le rôle de la traduction dans la poésie concrète brésilienne : le cas des intraductions d’Augusto de Campos.” Carneiro first introduced the avant-garde movement in its historical and cultural context, before showing examples of Brasilian concrete poems like Augusto de Campos’ “Caracol.” He then delved into the concretist conception of translation which is inherently linked to that of appropriation. Carneiro showed that for these experimental poets, the act of translating is sometimes close to co-creation, as the name of the original poet and their translator become intricately linked. In some cases, Carneiro noted, the name of the poet/translator even overshadows that of the author of the original text. Campos’ intraducciones take this even further as these intersemiotic translations focus on the visual dimension of original texts rather than their meaning. These “vampirical” translations are, according to Carneiro, a unique form of visual poetry based on a method of voracious appropriation.

9Nathalie Galland-Boudon (Université de Bourgogne) chaired the final session of the conference, which featured papers by Yasna Bozhkova (Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle), Mario Alfonso Álvarez Domínguez (Université de Lille) and Aurore Clavier (Université de Lille). These papers all focused on contemporary practices. In her presentation entitled “Tisser le poème : texte et textile dans l’œuvre de Jen Bervin,” Yasna Bozhkhova explored the hybrid work of multimedia contemporary artist and poet Jen Bervin. Bozhkhova first underlined Bervin’s feminist, collaborative and transhistorical practice of undervalued needlework. From erasure poetry to editing Emily Dickinson’s envelope poem, Bervin’s multifaceted work draws attention to the proximity between text and textiles. Dickinson’s Composites (2004-2008), for instance, are a series of large quilts where Bervin embroidered the idiosyncratic marks of Dickinson’s punctuation using red thread. In other pieces, needlework is used to erase parts of other texts to create new meaning. Bozkhova contended that in more recent work revolving around the production of silk Bervin’s visual poetry becomes tactile. This paper was followed by a discussion of contemporary Mexican visual poetry led by Mario Alfonso Álvarez Domínguez. In “Représenter de la violence : quelques enjeux visuels de la poésie mexicaine du XXIe siècle,” he argues that violence has had a significative impact on recent Mexican literature. Showcasing many examples, Álvarez Domínguez drew attention to the ways in which visual poems have represented said violence. Most of these poems don’t merely convey the horror of the experience of violence but also a political and social critique. The layout of a poem by Juana Adcock represents a beheaded corpse, another poem conceived by Esther M. García is in the shape of a gun, some letters disappear to echo the fate of missing persons in a piece by Iván Cruz Osorio. The final paper entitled “‘this land’ : Layli Long Soldier, ou l’espace national à l’épreuve du poème” ­­was delivered by Aurore Clavier. Clavier studied WHEREAS, which was published in 2017. Layli Long Soldier’s practice, much like Jen Bervin’s, is multifaceted: WHEREAS exists alongside an interactive art installation. The title of the book is a legal term taken from the United States’ official “apology” to Native American tribes, and the collection is structured like the legal text. Clavier investigated the kind of space that is opened by the poetic and political I in the collection. Shen then reminded the audience of Barbara Johnson’s work on the lyric/legal I and focused on the visual aspect of Soldier’s work. Through a series of convincing close readings, she showed that Soldier’s use of the space of the page is tied to powerful implications about the history and experience of the Sioux people.

10Alberto Blanco, poet and visual artist from Mexico, was the last plenary speaker of the conference. He was introduced by Paul-Henri Giraud (Université de Lille), who said that Blanco was a sort of “central marginal” hovering between the edges and the center of Mexican art without ever settling anywhere. Blanco started his presentation by showing one of the first drawings he had ever made and reflected on the beginning of his passion for art. He then chronologically showed the evolution of his experiments, which comprise collages, drawings, notebooks, translations, essays, paintings, visual poems, calligraphy, sculptures and more. Blanco also noted that Giraud was one of the first scholars to draw attention to his work and visual poems. Standing up to read his poems and encouraging the audience to start making collages to be happy, Blanco’s energy and sense of humor invigorated the audience at the end of a long day of discussions. He insisted on his rejection of abstract notions such as “soul,” “identity” and “essence,” stating that form is more important that anything that can’t be quickly explained in a clear fashion. Following his talk, a member of the audience asked Blanco what he would suggest to someone who wants to start creating. “You are not going to like my answer,” Blanco said, “don’t ask, just do.” This call to creation provided an ideal conclusion to two days of multilingual talks uniting scholars of the Americas around the many critical perspectives opened by visual poetry.

Haut de page


ADCOCK, Juana. Manca y más poemas. Mexico : Fondo Editorial Tierra Adentro, 2013.

ARMANTROUT, Rae. Finalists. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2022.

ARMANTROUT, Rae. Partly: New and Selected Poems, 2001–2015. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2016.

BEAULIEU, Derek. How to Write. Vancouver : Talonbooks, 2010.

BERVIN, Jen. Nets. New York : Ugly Duckling Press, 2003.

BROWN, Bob. The Readies.S.l. : Roving Eye Press, 2015.

GARCÍA, Esther M. Sicarii. Guayaquil : El Quirófano, 2013.

HOWE, Susan. Concordance. New York : New Directions, 2020.

HOWE, Susan. Debths. New York : New Directions, 2017.

JOHNSON, Barbara. « Antropomorphism in Lyric and Law ». The Lyric Theory Reader: A Critical Anthology. Eds. Virginia Jackson et Yopie Prins. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, p. 304‑318.

JOHNSON, Ronald. Radi Os. Chicago : Flood Editions, 2005.

OLSON, Charles. Mayan Letters. Palma de Majorque : Divers Press, 1953.

OSORIO, Iván Cruz. Dogma. Mexico : Malpaís Ediciones, 2020.

SCHWERNER, Armand. The Tablets. Orono : National Poetry Foundation, 1999.

SOLDIER, Layli Long. WHEREAS: Poems. Minneapolis : Minnesota, Graywolf Press, 2017.

SOLDIER Layli Long, WHEREAS: Poems, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Graywolf Press, 2017, 114 p.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Juliette Bouanani, « “Le poème visuel dans les Amériques, xxe-xxie siècles”  »Transatlantica [En ligne], 1 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2023, consulté le 26 septembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Juliette Bouanani

Université Paris Nanterre, ED138, Centre de Recherches Anglophones (CREA)

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur


Creative Commons - Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International - CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Haut de page
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search