Illusions of simplicity

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Visual poems employ the materiality of language (such as letter- and word-forms and page layouts), to help develop their meanings, thereby synthesizing visual and verbal cues. To discuss this multimodal genre, I posit a framework based on cognitive research of fictive motion, frames, simulation, and blending. I apply this framework to two works by Canadian poet bpNichol to illustrate some of the central cognitive processes and connections required to synthesize and understand them, something previous theoretical positions have struggled with. My analysis illustrates that these apparently simplistic poems are far more complex than we realize. The posited framework can easily extend beyond visual poetry to other multimodal genres, such as comics and advertising, and can also contribute to discussions of genre, style, and other issues of form in literature.


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