The art of writing #42 : Andrew Brenza

How did you first come to visual poetry? What is it about the form that resonates?

Besides the occasional encounter with a shaped poem or the work of ee cummings, I did not really become aware of visual poetry until I was in graduate school at Temple University's creative writing program. There, I first came across the visual works of Johanna Drucker, Leslie Scalapino, Susan Howe, bpNichol as well as the works of concrete poets like Ian Hamilton Finlay, Emmett Williams, Eugen Gomringer, etc.. Mary Ellen Solt's Flowers in Concrete remains one of my favorites. For me, visual poetry opened an entirely new world of meaning-making and image-making. It seemed to offer a means of expression that went beyond the semantic meaning of "regular" looking poetry. In fact, it added additional layers of meaning which allowed for an increased complexity of expression. It offers a way to represent the ineffable through objects and poetic experiences that can, I think, diminish the dominating and prescribing "I" of lyric poetry.   

How does a poem begin?

It begins variously. Sometimes, it's an image in my mind that I attempt to re-create. Sometimes the image in my mind morphs into something else entirely once I try to create it. Sometimes, it's a feeling.  Sometimes the feeling morphs into something else entirely once I try to represent it. Sometimes, the creation of a poem leads to ideas for other poems. Generally, they all reach for silence.

You’ve published poetry in numerous journals. Do you see your writing as a single, extended project, or a series of disconnected threads? Are you in the process yet of thinking about collecting any of your work into a manuscript?

Yes, I have published four books of poems, three of which are entirely composed of visual poetry. I also have two chapbooks of visual poetry slated for publication: Under a Digital Sky from Trainwreck Press, which I am particularly excited about, and Geometric Mantra from Above/Ground Press. My work very much tends toward the serial, so the chapbook and the book are important units of composition for me. 

Have you a daily schedule by which you work, or are you working to fit this in between other activities?

I have a family and a full-time job, so I try to steal an hour or so each morning to mess around. I try not to put too much pressure on the creative process, but have come to rely on this morning art ritual for what sometimes feels like a thin grip on sanity/humanity.

What are your favourite print or online literary journals?

My go to journals are Utsanga, Brave NewWorld Magazine, X-Peri, Sonic Boom, Word For/Word & Otoliths (all online) as well as ToCall and IndefiniteSpace (both print).  For visual poetry, I think that the small press is perhaps the most important means of distribution. Because of this, the chapbooks, objects and books produced by presses such as Simulacrum Press, The Blasted Tree, Timglaset Editions and Viktlösheten Press are very important to me.

Who are some of the writers you are reading lately that most excite you?

Right now, I am very into the work of Volodymyr Bilyk. Bilyk's Da Eel is my current favorite.



Andrew Brenza’s recent chapbooks include Poems in C (Viktlösheten Press), Bitter Almonds & Mown Grass (Shirt Pocket Press), and Waterlight (Simulacrum Press). He is also the author of four full-length collections of visual poetry, most recently Automatic Souls from Timglaset Editions and Alphabeticon & Other Poems from Redfoxpress.

He had a selection of visual works appear in the fifth issue.