A Study on Visual Literacy: Similarities between Visual Strategies in Portuguese Concrete Poems

Artigo de Elsa Simões com perspectiva comparativa entre discursos visuais na publicidade e poesia concreta. [pdf]

In > Exploring Visual Literacy Inside, Outside and through the Frame. Ed. Aundreta Conner Farris and Frieda Pattenden. Oxford, Inter-Disciplinary Press, pp. 67-76, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-84888-112-9.

Abstract > Of late, there has been renewed interest in Portuguese Concrete (or Experimental) poetry of the 60s and the 70s. Experimentalism is a recurrent tendency in literary history and, by deliberately choosing to designate their own production as such, Portuguese poets such as E. M. de Melo e Castro and Ana Hatherly were foregrounding the disruptive character of their production and of their literary tenets. Concrete poetry rebelled against the previous poetic practice and the inadequacy of the existing language of criticism to describe the new materials of the poems: in fact, Concrete poets were establishing a renewed literary and philosophical theory on which they based their conception of poetry as a matter of global perception, where the poem is no longer a token of meaning conveyed by whatever significance might be encapsulated in the words chosen; rather, full meaning lies in its materiality and in the words and their combinations on their physical support as visually significant elements. This will to transcend the boundaries of linguistically-bound signification also led to a reassessment of the creative uses of visuals in areas such as advertising, since, notwithstanding basic differences as to the purpose of both practices (ads ultimately want to sell, poems offer aesthetic fruition for its own sake), there is a coincidence of strategies that provides the reader/viewer with new experiences in world perception: ads appeal to all our senses simultaneously, the better to make us adhere to their worldview, and visuals play a major role in this. That is also the approach in Concrete poems, which frees literature from its ‘slavery from the word.’ A new type of visual literacy is thus reclaimed by these poets for the proper decoding of their practice (which, ideally, will no longer be word-bound) – similar to the comprehensive creative freedom that advertising has traditionally enjoyed.

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