As Director of Writing and Assistant Professor of English and Creative
Writing, Holly Bittner oversees the First-Year Writing Program, the
creative writing minor and The Writer’s Studio.
She also teaches a unique creative writing course on visual poetry (Topics in Creative Writing: Visual Poetries). In this class, students write their own poetry while examining the work of a variety of modern and contemporary poets. Readings focus on poems that emphasize visual elements and explore how poetry takes inspiration from other forms of art, such as painting, graphic design and illustration.
There are different types of visual poetry, including concrete poetry (a “shape” poem, or a poem whose form is a representation of its content); sculptural poetry (3-D poetry that could be exhibited in a gallery) and projective verse (trying to represent the poet’s voice and breathe spacially on the page.)
“Visual poetry often uses the page as a canvas,” Bittner said. “These are poems that you can’t read in a traditional way. They are more to look at and contemplate. They do involve language, but in more of a material way.”
Bittner received a Dean’s Visibility Grant to present a talk about the class entitled “Visual Poetries: Creative Writing as Art, Students as Teachers,” with Moore writing program adjunct instructor Lucia Gbaya-Kanga, at the 26th annual National Conference on Liberal Arts and the Education of Artists: WORDIMAGE/IMAGEWORD in New York, NY in October 2012.
“We talked about visual poetry and how it complicates people’s assumptions about art and about poetry,” Bittner said. “In the same way that this course tests the boundary between visual art and poetry, the classroom complicates the boundary between teacher and student. The students bring their artistic and design skills and I bring my background as a poet and scholar, and we have to meet in the middle and work together.”
Bittner, who has a BA in English and an MA in English/Creative Writing from Temple University, said she has incorporated visual poetry in her own work, using the page as a visual space.
She recently completed a book-length poem--a hybrid of documentary, memoir and poetry called ENDOME--that deals with her experience with the disease endometriosis.
“The visual is very important to that poem,” she said. “It makes use of non-traditional poetic forms like charts and even surgery reports to uncover deeper layers of meaning behind bodily symptoms, diagnoses and doctors' orders.”
Bittner will go on sabbatical this fall, turning the poem into a 3-D installation exhibition at a space to be determined.
“I tend to push the traditional boundaries of poetry and see where it goes,” she said. “Over the years my poetry has become more and more visual and worked its way off the page.”
To learn more about visual poetry visit here