Breath, Death, and Silence: Concrete Poetry Envisioned within the Context of Visual Rhetoric

Breathe
Breathe
Death as Player
Death as Player
Ballad of Silence
Ballad of Silence

 


The first poem, “Breathe,” places a primary focus on the use of space, with its intent to ease anxiety within the reader. Breathing is not always easy, yet it is possibly the most important expression of life. Thus, as the airy tendrils of words reach out, so too does life, pulling us through it. In a way, the most impactful portion of the poem is that which is not there. The second poem, “Death as Player,” is drafted in the form of the print Death as Executioner by Alfred Rethel, and is based upon the darkly comedic nature of morbidity as it is often portrayed in art (Rethel). The anthropomorphic personification of Death is often visually portrayed as a very solemn figure who takes no pleasure in his deeds, yet Death as portrayed by Rethel challenges that traditional portrayal as it plays its instrument of bones with an eerie contentment. I wished to capture that within the poem. The third and final poem, “Ballad of Silence,” represents, in a roundabout way, duality. Though the poem appears to tell a single story, the first word of each line is repeated, and the poem concludes with the title of a collage by Max Ernst within the book The Hundred Headless Woman, which may be translated as “The same, for the second,” slightly edited to remove the ellipsis (Ernst 19). This may be interpreted within the context of the poem as history repeating itself, as the same story is told again and again. The anchor symbol is left in negative space, representing the hollowness of the tale itself in regard to the overall meaning, once more placing an emphasis on what is not there. Similarly, the emphasis of the quote is also abstract, urging the reader to research the meaning behind it, or else generate their own meaning.