Optical Poetry, by Klaus Peter Dencker
Klaus Peter Dencker’s book, Optical Poetry, is an exhaustive investigation (971 pages) of the blending of text and image through to the fusion of the two. This section of the book, translated into English for the first time, plots the historical trajectory of visual poetry, “a form of Optical Poetry which, as a distinct form, came about in the middle of the 20th century out of a mutual relation of visual art and literature, of picture and text, of figurative and semantic elements.” Dencker is a key figure in the visual poetry movement.
Der Begriff OPTISCHE POESIE ist ein Hilfsbegriff
Klaus Peter Dencker (Ahrensburg)
Transl. by Claudia Franken
When, at the end of the sixties, I stopped writing regular poetry in order to explore some more experimental forms, there had already been Concrete Poetry, with which I was acquainted, but which was, in its final analysis concerning the treatment of the linguistic material, too hermetic and non-sensual for me. At that time, the terms Concrete Poetry and Visual Poetry were used synonymously for identical forms in German-speaking countries, and so I tried to demarcate Visual Poetry from Concrete Poetry, (and, accordingly, to define my own work). I designed forms of visualisation that followed their own laws – that is, as a symbiosis of forms of visual art and literature in one formation [Gebilde] (following Karel Teige), by involving photography and film, and with the claim for a so-called co-author (in the sense of Umberto Eco’s „Open Form“) –, all these steps went beyond Concrete Poetry. After several small publications on this topic, the anthology Text-Bilder. Visuelle Poesie international. Von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (Köln 1972) was published, which founded a demarcation in accordance with retraced historical lines and antecedents of Visual Poetry.
No sooner than in 2010, an always planned, more comprehensive, and long-overdue account of the international history of the development of writing from the beginnings up to present-day digital experiments could be finished. This publication, Optische Poesie (Optical Poetry. From early pictorial inscriptions to present-day digital experiments. Berlin/New York 2011), was to amplify what I had projected in 1972 and, at the same time, it was to approach a description and comprehensive definition of the term Visual Poetry – as well as, comprehensively, of Optical Poetry – endeavours which at that time had been possible just in form of a basic assessment. Given this so heterogenous form of expression from diverging sources, whose world-wide historical development turned out to be quite many-faceted, I was aware that an exhaustive and conclusive account would hardly be possible – in particular, since a detailed investigation in all foreign-language literatures has to be reserved to the specialists in concern. The practical and theoretical experiences that have been collected meanwhile, and the insights into a wealth of publications over the last 40 years were nevertheless suited for a historically and typologically ordered survey of material, as well as for a cautious sketch of the developmental lines and complex relationships that invite further engagement and precisioning. I tried to open the view for the paradigm shifts caused by media history and media communication, for the changed self-understanding of artist and artwork, of poet and poetry, and for the shifting of image in poetry via the image of poetry up to poetry about poetry – hence, for the shift from the poetic image via the visualisation of poetry up to meta-poetry, as well as for the increasing lingualisation of the image and the iconification of text.
Concrete and Visual Poetry, which were at the center of attention, – as two forms of expression of Optical Poetry after 1945 – had been approached via the manifold forms of visualisation of Acoustic Poetry, Musical Graphics and Kinetic Poetry, not only in order to show that all intermediate zones of the traditional branches of art, in following similar historical conditions, unfold related structures, but also in order to clarify that even strong formal resemblances must not distort the view for entirely autonomous forms of expression which can by no means be subsumed under one and the same term.
The first attempt at designing a kind of systematics for visualizing language in writing, words and text that is known to me comes from the art historian and publisher in Leipzig, Ludwig Volkmann (1870-1947). In 1903, following aesthetic conceptions at the turn of the century, Volkmann wrote on the “Grenzen der Künste“ (Dresden 1903) that “the single art forms in their close interaction have to impose on themselves a certain inner consideration for one another,” but he stated that although they “influence each other intellectually” in this way, “they never mix“. In his 1930 publication “Bild und Schrift“ (In: Buch and Writing 4. Leipzig 1930, pp. 9ff), however, he dealt with just this mixture of literature and visual arts in a surprisingly progressive way. His “Programm eines ungeschriebenen Buches“, (Programme of an Unwritten Book), on the relationship of writing and image already mentions a nearly complete spectrum of forms along historical lines that have contributed to the development of Optical Forms of Text.
The term Optical Poetry, as I use it, derives from Greek οπτικη. It is a kind of poetry that visualizes something in the double sense of being poetry that can not only be read but also is there to be seen. At the same time, though, this kind of poety renders something visible, evident, and draws attention to something. The notion had already existed in various contexts, as e.g. in Oskar Fischinger (Optische Poetry. Oskar Fischinger. Leben and Werk. Kinematograph Nr. 9. Berlin 1993, p. 9) at about 1920, when he used Optical Poetry for his paintings, (e. g., as title of a coating paint picture/ gouache , of an oil painting ) and as a title of one of his short films , or in a review of Renoir’s movie Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (“Frühstück im Grünen.“ In: Der Spiegel 11. Hamburg 1961, pp. 91-93; (cf. p. 93, which deals with „Optischer Lyrik“)), and finally as Optical language for “Beispiele Optischer Poesie”, collected by Karl Riha and Conrad Wiedemann in 1963 (DISKUS 10. Frankfurt 1963, p. 13).
Optical Poetry as a kind of umbrella term comprises all areas that concern visualised poetic productions. These include – next to the graphical notations of Acoustic Poetry and the figurative treatments of modern radio play, the poetical notations of Musical Graphics, the graphic models of Kinetic Poetry and, finally, Visual Poetry – Concrete Poetry with some of its sub-areas, poetical forms of Scriptural Painting as well as the historical forms of shaped, grid- and labyrinth poems, and kinds of rebus and of ars combinatoria, enigmatics, allegorics, hieroglyphics, emblematics and the various forms of comic strips (from the exultet scroll to the speech bubble), picture texts (for example figurae) and text pictures (e. g. graffiti). To these productions in the realm of letterpress printing, add those in the technical and electronic media areas (text-photo-collages, film-, tv- and video poetry, copy-art, BTX-art, holopoetry for example), mail art, correspondence art (e. g., telegraphy-, telefax-, e-mail art) as well as the forms of poetry in the context of 20th and 21st century public art.
Not included here are Optical Forms of Text not attributable to poetry, such as, e. g., calligraphies, art writings and image-alphabets, forms of advertising, or, in general, Figural Text Fills, which, being brought about by the invention of letterpress printing and the beginnings of a play with the print space, belonged primarily to the common repertoire of book design. Also for the latter case, however, we have to take into account that language as a visual system of communication per se is always already significantly shaped by typeface. And typography, print space, format, paper colour, book design etc., even within regular letterpress printing, are elements that instinctively control, via our visual capacity, the reading of a text, and hence of a typeface, so that they are to exert some influence on the contents, too.
In this way Optical Poetry attains a multifaceted spectrum of expression, and its single formal elements can be found in some historical lines of its development, too, e. g., in those of the shaped poem from Greek bucolic, via the Pegnitz shepherds of Baroque and Apollinaire’s Calligrammes to Claus Bremer’s shaped texts, – or in the development of comics, starting with the talking images of Greek vase painting about 500 BC, and in the development of the Early Christian exultet scrolls, as well as in the history of fly sheets, of picture cycles and pictorial broadsheets, up to 19th century cartoons and present-day Japanese mangas.
In these historical lines of development, there emerges a time-and-again newly-probed symbiosis of image and text, the origin of which can actually be noticed already in the development of writing itself. This is so, since writing is not only a meaningfully ordered sequence of known letters, and not just an instrument in order to communicate something, – writing also is a graphic event. In writing, a writer’s individual gesture is shown, and this gesture is, together with the aesthetic structure of what is written and its contents, a significant artistic means of expression. So writing is not just artful writing, or calligraphy, but above all an autonomous art (of signs). Next to the calligraphic treatment of alphabets and other systems of writing (as, for example, in embossed printing, morse alphabet or various secret codes), we can find also those possibilities of expression that artists invented with their personal handwriting and that were informed by foreign graphic characters, as can be seen, e.g., in Wassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst or Paul Klee.
These two possibilities of an artist’s way of handling writing mirror the original meanings of the words – to be precise: in the two meanings of schreiben and malen for one and the same word: – for one sign, for example in Chinese (xiĕ = write and draw, depict), or for one word, as in Ancient Egypt (s š and ś p h r). This also holds true for Latin scribere or Greek graphein. In the Egyptian language, there are, moreover, two meanings for the word tjt: icon and graphic character.
In “Dada Fragmente“, Hugo Ball notes on 13 June 1916: “Word and image are one. Painting and poetry belong together. Christ is image and word. Word and image intersect“ and, later, “writing and image, that means writing and forming [bilden], are one in their roots [wurzelhaft].“ [transl. mine] (Cf. Paul Klee, The bildnerische Denken. Ed. Jürgen Spiller. Basel 1990, p. 17); and, likewise, Walser: „Writing and penmanship appear to stem from drawing.“ [transl. mine], (Cf. Robert Walser, Aus dem Bleistiftgebiet. Ed. by Bernhard Echte and Werner Morlang. Mikrogramme 1926/27. Frankfurt 1990, p. 410).
These findings raise the old question after the intrinsic identity or non-identity, or, after the demarcation of the boundaries between painting and writing. Is depictive painting already writing or can writing still be called depictive painting? How close is the relationship of image and text, or of painting and poetry? – These questions have stimulated the ut pictura poesis discussion for centuries.
Eventually, the very outset of the development of writing draws our attention to the pictorial and to a turn from iconography towards ideography. The history of the development of writing, – apart from some, still undisclosed systems of writing in Crete, Mexico or Pakistan -, can in so far be explored in a verifiable manner, as, according to the most common view, a historical line can be drawn: From more than 50.000-year-old rock paintings and the pictographic script in China (bird- and insect writing), via the hieroglyphs of Egyptians, Aztecs and Mayas (with the icon as symbol), up to the pictograms of cuneiform writing in Mesopotamia and up to the valuation of pictographs, (that is, hieroglyphs), as letters by the Canaan Semites on the peninsula Sinai, and its further development by the Phoenicians, who replaced the icon by simpler geometrical forms, so that the Ancient Greeks’ adaption of this system of writing, which took place at the latest in the 8th century BC, and the Greek insertion of vowels, which had hitherto been missing in all writing systems, the history of the development of writing resulted in the change from image-alphabet to sound alphabet.
Optics, or the term Optical, in the way it ties in with forms of any kind of artistic production, can be accounted for at the latest with the rise of the technical visual media of photography and film and, programmatically, with Futurism and Dadaism – explicitly so, for example, with El Lissitzky, when he claimed a “new optics of book space“ and, in 1923, required it for all texts (El Lissitzky, Ökonomie des Ausdrucks – Optik statt Phonetik. In: Merz 4, July 1923, p. 47) or with Bertolt Brecht, who reported a “regrouping according to the optical point of view“ with reference to a “new optics in literature“ [transl. mine] in “Berliner Börsen-Courier“ of 1925 (Bertolt Brecht, Gesammelte Werke. Vol. 18. Frankfurt 1973, p. 24). Programmatically and even more unambiguously, Karel Teige defined his Poetismus also as “writing poetically with optical forms. With optical words that draw upon flag semaphore“ [transl. mine] (In: Poetismus, May 1924, first in: Host 3/ 9-10. Brno July 1924, p. 197ff) and later, in June 1928: “We have seen the gradual disengagement of poetry from literature, and, at the same time, a larger opticalisation of poetry up to its fusion with painting in a visual poem.“ (In: Manifesty poetismu, first as special issue of: ReD. Revue svazu morní kultury / Revue internationale illustrée de l’activité contemporaine, H. 9. Ed. Künstlergruppe “Devĕtsil“. Praha June 1928). Retrospectively, Raoul Hausmann stated: “It was recognized even then [in 1919] that the enhanced contemporary need for the picture, hence the doubling of a text by means of optical iIllustration, not by means of simple juxtaposition, but could be solved only by means of an optical construction that has recourse on a foundation of verbal thought.“ (Typografie 1932. In: Raoul Hausmann, Retrospektive. Hannover 1981, p. 58f). From time to time, the authors of concrete and visual poetry exhibit a terminological nearness, when, e.g., Carlfriedrich Claus notes that his papers “are realized as optical systems, sensed, as well as unfolded in time, and are read as linguistic information.“ (Carlfriedrich Claus, Erwachen am Augenblick. Sprachblätter. Karl-Marx-Stadt 1990, p. 128).
Especially since the 1920s, on an international scale, there emerged new forms of Optical Poetry (and with them new terms), such as Apollinaire’s Lyrisme Visuel (seit 1913), Tzara’s Poème Visuel (1916), Poezo-Painting (1920) by Mykhailo Semenko, the Bildgedicht by Teige (also in Kurt Schwitters, Gesetztes Bildgedicht  ), Visuelle Dichtung (1923) in Lissitzky, Poesiographie (1923) by Wladyslaw Strzeminski and Pictopoezie (1924) by Victor Brauner and Ilarie Voronca, – some of these forms were rediscovered by authors of the 1950s and 60s, especially while the terms Konkrete Poesie or Concrete Poetry emerged and became more widely used. Further terms were added to Concrete Poetry in many countries, such as Lettrisme, Hypergraphique and Spatialisme (France), Semantic Poetry (England), Signalismus (Jugoslavia/ Serbia), Visuelle Poesie, Textbilder u. Sehtexte (German-speaking countries), Optical Poems (Czechia), Pattern Poetry, Visual Poetry, Pictorial Poetry, Speaking Pictures and Imagening Language (USA), Poesia Visuale and Poesia Visiva (Italy), Poemas Visuales (Spain/ Latin America), Shishi/ Shikakushi and Plastic Poem (Japan). Many of these terms cannot always be relied upon to denote identical things and they do not even always hint at the same formal similarities, owing to their different countries of origin and conditions of language, but also, if nothing else, because of the way the single poets` individual programmatics imprinted them.
The arguably earliest employment of the term Concrete Poetry occurs in Ernest Francisco Fenollosa, in 1907/08 (The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry. Ed. Ezra Poand. In: Little Review 6/5. New York Sept. 1919, pp. 62-64; 6/6, Oct. 1919, pp. 57 – 64; 6/7, Nov. 1919, pp. 55-60; 6/8, Dec. 1919, pp. 68-72). Fenollosa shows how the reduction on a Chinese character may express “the Concrete of Nature“ without any grammatical and abstractive network, and how the ideographical element of the characters engender precisely and in an unmediated way “a splendid flash of concrete Poetry“. The term “concrete poem“ can be found, for the first time, in 1949, with Max Bense, (Konturen einer Geistesgeschichte der Mathematik. II. Mathematik in der Kunst. Hamburg 1949, p. 51f), who found T. S. Eliot to be a “type of concrete poet and abstract thinker.“ He cited Eliot’s 1933 concept of “absolute poetry” and the German translation of the claim “to write poetry that should be essentially poetry, without nothing poetic about it, poetry standing naked in its bare bones.“ (“Dichtung zu schreiben, die wesenhaft Dichtung wäre, ohne doch poetisch zu sein, Dichtung, die hüllenlos dastünd gleichsam in ihrem Knochengerüst.”) What Concrete Poetry could be had already been described in Kandinsky’s publications “Über das Geistige in der Kunst“ (1911) and “Über die Formfrage“ (1912) almost simultaneously with the Italian Futurists and Russian Formalists – and not to forget: after the visionary “Wortkunst“ considerations (since 1898) by Arno Holz –, to which Ezra Pound had already referred in his contribution “Vorticism“ (1914). The terms concrete poetry and concrete poems, then, can be found in 1951, in Hans Arp (Der Dichter Kandinsky. In: Wassily Kandinsky. Ed. Max Bill. Paris 1951, p. 147), even before the three most important programmatic writings on concrete poetry by Öyvind Fahlström (Hätila ragulpr pa fatskliaben . In: Bord dikter 1952 – 1955. – Stockholm 1966, p. 57ff), Eugen Gomringer (vom vers zur konstellation. zweck and form einer neuen dichtung . In: Augenblick 1/2. Ed. Max Bense. Krefeld/Baden-Baden 1955, p. 14ff) and by the Brasilian Noigandres-Group: Augusto de Campos/ Décio Pignatari/ Haroldo de Campos (Teoria da Poesia Concreta. Textos Críticos e Manifestos 1950 – 1960. Edições Invenção, São Paulo 1965 – a summary of both manifestos: poesia concreta: un manifesto von Augusto de Campos in: ad – arquitetura e decoracao No. 20. Sao Paulo November/December 1956 and Augusto and Haroldo de Campos/ Décio Pignatari, plano-pilóto para poesia concreta . In: Noigandres Nr. 4, 1958).
Concrete Poetry developed a new awareness of the verbal material, and a new literalness by means of linguistically shaped analyses of language and a corresponding definition of the letter/ text shaping in relation to surface and space by the means of reduction and construction. Although it is, by now, beyond debate that also theories and works of Concrete Art influenced Concrete Poetry, this should not make us look upon the term Concrete Poetry as a mere analogue to Concrete Art. This may be an immediate suggestion, since there are familiar analogy formations, such as those of (literary) Jugendstil, (literary) expressionism, (literarischen) futurism, (literary) dadaism etc. One of the co-founders of Concrete Poetry in German-speaking countries, Eugen Gomringer, reported how he met the Brasilian Noigandres-group’s representative, Décio Pignatari, at Ulm Hochschule for Gestaltung in 1955 and, “owing to aesthetic kinship and intellectual obligation to theoreticians, painters and sculptors of concrete art”, both “came to agree upon calling their parallel experiments concrete ones.“ [transl. mine] (Eugen Gomringer, deutschsprachige autoren. Stuttgart 1972, p. 5). This is undermined by another remark by Gomringer in his 1960 contribution “Das Gedicht als Gebrauchsgegenstand” (The Poem as Article of Daily Use): “my friends in São Paulo and I superordinated the term <concrete poetry> to our poems, if nothing else, in honor of the Zurich concrete painters – bill, graeser, lohse, vreni loewensberg – the strong group which had been broadcasting impulses since the early forties and to which I owe, since 1942, decisive suggestions concerning the design of constellations.“ [transl. mine] (In: Gomringer, worte sind schatten. die konstellationen 1951-1968. Reinbek 1969, p. 291).
In the 1950s and 60s, Visual Poetry was used synonymously with Concrete Poetry, since the visual component of Concrete Poetry resulted inevitably from that kind of organisation of letter- and text material which was genuine to it. With this, necessarily, surface and space rose to awareness. And since hitherto the reading habit was oriented merely along the line or the line of text with its reading direction from left to right, it was only then that the reader– by means of the combinatory possibilities of the offered text materials, its above and below, in fact, of all of its sides – became fully conscious of the always already existing mode of seeing a text. Initially, this resulted in two points of view: From the perspective of an unbiased beholder, all forms of arranging the textual material which did not correspond to the traditional print space could be termed Visual Poetry (and this did not hold true only for Concrete Poetry but, shortly after, for all historical text-picture-forms). From the literary perspective of authors who wanted to deal with the linguistic material in a concrete and in a new way, however, Concrete Poetry was intended.
At the beginning of the 1970s, and, especially, after the ending of the period of Concrete Poetry (Eugen Gomringer, visual poetry. In: Welt aus Sprache. Auseinandersetzung mit Zeichen und Zeichensystemen der Gegenwart. Berlin 1972, p. 118), Visual Poetry in German-speaking countries was acknowledged – as in a way also an advancement of Concrete Poetry and as self-contained form (cf. all of my essays from 1970 onwards). Certainly there were (even earlier) attempts at demarcating Visual Poetry vis-a-vis Concrete Poetry in many countries, e. g. in Japan, with the ASA-group (Concrete Poetry) around Seiichi Niikuni and the VOU-group (Visual Poetry) around Katue Kitasono, or in Italy, where Visual Poetry (poesia visuale) branched into poesia visiva and poesia concreta.
“Let us briefly sum up the characteristics of visual poetry. It is the resolute continuation of what was inherent in the works of art by Dadaists and Futurists as well as in Mallarmé. It would be wrong to identify works of art by Dadaists and Futurists all too soon with visual poetry or to attribute pictorial texts and tautological ideograms of ancient or baroque provenience to the rigorous concept of visual poetry […] Concrete and visual poetry as representative terms are not identical.” [transl. mine] (Peter Weiermair, Visuale Poetry/Konzeptkunst. In: Visuelle Poesie. Ed. Klaus Peter Dencker. Dillingen 1984, p. 11. Further identical denotations by Dick Higgins, Christina Weiss et al. are mentioned here.) and “the identity of ´concrete´ and ´visual´ became more and more questioned by new authors and new procedures of text production and thereby of a new, enhanced comprehension of poetry. The notion of ´visual poetry´ began to secede and became reserved for these new procedures.“ [transl. mine] (Visuelle Poesie. Anthologie von Eugen Gomringer. Stuttgart 1996, p. 9).
Peter Weiermair, long-time director of Frankfurt Kunstverein and curator of many exhibitions of Concrete and Visual Poetry, resists any employment of the term Visual Poetry for all historical forms that deviate optically just somewhat from the traditional type surface, as, indeed, it is a partial regression into the common practice of using the term synonymously for what we have described as Concrete and Visual Poetry. Artists coined the term visual poetry especially for their works of the second half of the 20th century. These autonomous works of art that essentially had been under the influence of neighbouring arts should not be compared with historical examples of optical poetry which in keeping with their times followed different, traditional rhetorics.
Visual Poetry is a form of Optical Poetry, which, as a distinct form, came about in the middle of the 20th century out of a mutual relation of visual art and literature, of picture and text, of figurative and semantic elements. Visual Poetry connects several forms of art within an intermedial space as well as it connects the sensitive reaction upon media and an environment’s messages of any form. In its various forms of realisation that are dependent upon the respective medium and create new nexuses, Visual Poetry is a reservoir of important experiences and insights from the history of optical textual forms, of developments of visual art such as fluxus, spurensicherung, concept art, constructivism and concrete art, pop-art, the various variants of realism and all conceivable varieties of logical language mastery [Spachführung]. Next to being studious play, being an experiment directed against tradition and to being an artistic design which, developed by means of its characteristic experiences, instigates new processes of sensibilisation, Visual Poetry also mirrors, and responds to, the development of the media environment, to a quite strong mutual pollination and to the interprenetation of the arts. So it is a possible form of expression in the development and innovation of our information- and communication society, which reacts upon new media functionings (video, computer, holography, laser etc.) and can inject itself critically and creatively into interactive models of communication.
Out of this mutual influence, Visual Poetry adapted a range of media features and of their resulting procedures for its purposes. Next to techniques of copying and montage, there were kinetic, sequential forms, which, similar to hypertext, featured the hierarchical structures and not-linear cross-linkages of nearly all means of analogue and digital media from handwriting up to programming and generating text and image. Since Visual Poetry was not firmly tied to any written or sign language, there emerged, on the surface and in space, a unique grammar of a language gathered from its surroundings and formed by means of newly invented text-picture components. In this way there emerged rather complex entities, in which several levels – not just levels of text- and image, but also various semantic levels –interleaved and created nets of associations with not-linear constellations or constructions of material. In their most consistent shapings, these entities could also be understood as a kind of “network poetry“ (Klaus Peter Dencker, Visuelle Poesie 1965 – 2005, p. 136).
Therewith two elements of traditional literature, as it were in a new shape and function, once again entered upon visual poetry: – the narrative and metaphorical element. Both elements first had to be liberated from Concrete Poetry. This took place by means of reconsidering the concrete meaning of a verbal sign and its function within a certain constellation and within a model that represented its strained traditional relationships to poetry. Only at this point it became possible that not-linear narrative and new metaphorical structures – whose own image- and context grammar was different not merely in production, but on the grounds of the open form of Visual Poetry – could emerge also in its reception. In this process, also the iconographical aspect, which had been repressed by Concrete Poetry in favour of the ideographical, re-attained a new function, pointing beyond its merely depictive and illustrating nature. Habitual seeing, the perception of a seemingly familiar image or sign, turned into a critical questioning of the seen concerning its truth content and the unambiguousness of its message. There evolved a meta-language, in which metaphor became a substitute for image and sign alike, an abstract figure of speech that was no longer oriented along traditional rhetorics. The image became sign, the sign an image dependent upon its source and its relations to a new context.
In contrast to the concerns of Concrete Poetry, this was not just a matter of the use of pictorial (environmental) material that had been singled out from familiar contexts in order to include more world in itself (as Gomringer once expressed it in 1978), but primarily, on the grounds of the very associative integration of these contexts (of origin), which stood in tension to the newly emerged (text/image)contexts, it was a matter of enhancing the (text/image) context awareness, so opening up new structures and perspectives of narration. In Concrete Poetry, a similiar enhancement had taken place earlier, provoked by a heightened awareness of the (linguistic) material.
This engagement with the media and with its resulting forms of communication was to turn into the central topic of all later attempts at describing and demarcating the phenomenon of Visual Poetry. This endeavour, however, turned out to be quite difficult, since it did not deal with a unified form of manifestation that could be pinpointed to certain techniques, materials, or certain formal or content-related programmatics: the flexibility of Visual Poetry is, as it were, its programme. It is intermedial and interdisciplinary, that means, it cannot be restricted to certain disciplines of art, such as literature, visual arts, film, photogrophy or computer art, and so on. Its reservoir of poetical, analytical, discursive and eye-catching elements of language and images from all fields of science, advertising, journalism and business communication, etc. is almost unrestricted. Visual Poetry demonstrates how reality is perceived within a processual interplay of seeing and interpreting it. It comes to be realised among all arts and consequently, also among and with all media, as, especially, Dick Higgins came to show in his „Intermedia-Chart“ (Molvena 19. 1. 1995).
In addition to this, Visual Poetry could, but did not have to, make itself understood as a form of art. It was lent the freedom of delivering ideas and forms to all areas of the modern information- and communication society and there was no fear of violating any poetics or aethetics. Perhaps it is also correct to note that the further development of Visual Poetry at the turn to the 21st century reacted upon a crisis of visual perception that was instigated by electronic media, upon an irritation brought about by images, upon a loss of image autonomy that was caused by the possibilities of simultaneous reproduction and manipulation (dissolution of boundaries), and, above all, by the disappearance of reality in favour of the simulation of a reality in which real and artificial worlds undistinguishably coincide. To these circumstances corresponds, effected by technical media, the emergence of new visual languages (such as, for example, the language of film or of expressionist dance (Ausdruckstanz)) as a reaction upon the linguistic crisis at the turn of the 20th century.
Born 1941 in Lübeck/Germany. Studies in German and Japanese literature. Dr. phil. 1970; Professor of Media-Theory and Media-Practise at the University of Trier 1985 – 2001; 1985 till 2002 also at the Ministry of Culture Hamburg. Filmmaker (more the 100 films for the German Television), Visual Poet (since 1970 international exhibitions and publications). Dencker did the first TV-film (ARD/HR) and the first german anthology (Textbilder-Visuelle Poesie inter-national. DuMont,K öln) about Visual Poetry in 1972. Dencker-Archive at the Kunstbibliothek Berlin/Berliner Museen/Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz with works of his own (more then 700 pages) and books (more then 500). The first monograph with biography, bibliography and works from 1965 till 2005: Klaus Peter Dencker, Visuelle Poesie 1965-2005. Ed. Kunstbibliothek Berlin/Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Weitra(A) 2006. Publications a. o.: Textbilder-Visuelle Poesie international. DuMont Dokumente Köln 1972; Deutsche Unsinnspoesie. Reclam Verlag, Stuttgart 1978; Visuelle Poesie. Queisser Verlag, Dillingen 1984; K(l)eine Poetik. (Eine Auswahl zum Sechzigsten von Klaus Peter Dencker). Edition Fundamental, Köln 2001; Renshi 2000 – 02. (Ein Kettengedicht deutscher und japanischer Visueller Poesie, verfasst und herausgegeben von Klaus Peter Dencker zusammen mit Yasuo Fujitomi, Motoyuki Ito, Hiroo Kamimura, Shutaro Mukai, und Shohachiro Takahashi. Hybriden Verlag, Berlin 2002; LW-Sequenz. Eter de Panji-Edition, St. Petersburg (=Visual World Poetry 2003); Antinomy (Peace/War). Zusammen mit Hiroshi Tanabu. Tokyo (=Tanabu-Edition Nr. 27), 2003; Poetische Sprachspiele. Reclam Verlag, Stuttgart 2003; VERS T EHEN. Squares and Sequences. Redfoxpress, Dugort, Achill Island, County Mayo/Ireland 2007; AMBIGUITY & MORE. Sequences. Redfoxpress, Dugort/Achill Island, County Mayo/Ireland 2010; Optische Poesie – von den praehistorischen Schriftzeichen bis zu den digitalen Experimenten der Gegenwart. Verlag de Gruyter, Berlin/New York, Fall 2010. His works are in many international museums around the world. Art-Prizes 1972 (Kulturpreis Erlangen), 1982 (Förderpreis zum Kunstpreis Berlin) a. o.