Graphic poems (i.e., poems as comics)

Recently, in a bit of nostalgic self-indulgence, I bought a lot of seven 1966 Treasure Chest magazines off eBay. Treasure Chest, offered by subscription to Catholic school kids, was a hybrid publication combining comic book and general interest magazine.*


I wasn’t much of a comic book reader, but I did enjoy Treasure Chest, especially the historical features. In the lot I purchased, there’s the edition that contained part two of the life of educational pioneer Maria Montessori. I’d remembered many of those images through the years; and, by association, had recalled many details of Montessori’s life (or as many as can be communicated through a two-part comic serial). Even without the visual prompting of having old issues in hand, I vividly remember scenes from such stories as the life of Father Isaac Jogues (with his maimed hands) and the tale (possibly apocryphal) of  a Union Soldier in the Civil War who woke up in a hospital on Christmas morning to find his childhood crazy quilt on his bed.


Because of how I experienced the power of words melding with graphic images, I’m very interested in the “The Poem as Comic Strip” feature on The Poetry Foundation’s website. I’m looking forward to seeing more poems in graphic form over time; right now there are five (numbers one through four can be accessed through the set of links on the right of the screen). I haven’t gotten into graphic novels yet, but I should. I think I’d really enjoy them.


I’ve always been a fan of Edward Lear’s limericks with their surreal accompanying line drawings. It would be interesting to see what modern poets who can also draw might come up with if they could present their own poems as comics. (I don’t draw, but I play around with collage and ATCs [artist trading cards]. I’ve often thought of collaging one of my poems, or doing an “altered chapbook.” The interplay of the literary and the visual is intriguing.)




*The Authentic History Center offers scans of the 1961 Treasure Chest series, “This Godless Communism.” Something changed drastically by 1965, when I started subscribing, because I don’t remember anything that overtly propagandistic. Sure, the adventure stories usually featured good Catholic heroes, but the text and drawings weren’t preachy and didn’t directly tout the Catholicism of the characters. And I don’t remember ever reading about communism, or even kid-level discussions of Vietnam. 

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