The Oakland Arts Review is a new international undergraduate literary journal published out of Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Their inaugural issue, which came out this March, featured a number of my poetry comics, and also included an interview that I gave to Paige Rowland, an undergraduate at Oakland U and one of the two Poetry Editors for OAR. I am reprinting the interview here. Many thanks to OAR Faculty Adviser Dr. Alison Powell for getting in touch with me and making this happen.
INTERVIEW WITH PAIGE ROWLAND
1. What’s your creative process?
In terms of my comics adaptations of poems, it begins with some image or images starting to take shape in my mind’s eye as I read a poem (Some people have complained that my adaptations are “overly literal,” but this is the direct –and intended- result of this approach). Afterwards I’ll flesh these images out further in my mind in a more deliberate, conscious way, and start to work them out on paper. At the same time I’ll begin to think about how to connect everything together in terms of the visual narrative of the comic, and how it complements the narrative of the poem, if there is one. Normally I’ll also do a good deal of visual research, in books and online. For instance, for Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” a poem written in the 1840s, I had to look into the children’s and adult fashion of the 1840s, and also the architecture and atmospheres of the mid-nineteenth-century American Atlantic seaboard, which was my chosen setting.
- What do you think the medium of comics and graphic novels can offer in storytelling that other mediums of storytelling cannot offer?
So many things! To answer this question adequately would take a whole book, and indeed there are a number of books dedicated exclusively to this subject. To take one example, there’s nothing like comics to make a character come alive in the mind of the reader. Among the many brilliant observations in Scott McCloud’s comic book about comics Understanding Comics is the insight that the simplification and stylization of faces and facial expressions in comics allows the reader to better identify with them, or at any rate to “fill up” the character in their head. This makes for a particularly engaged form of reader interaction with the story at hand.
There’s also the very satisfying impression that comics can produce of allowing one to move about within a picture. I recently read some lines by H. P. Lovecraft that really struck a chord with me: writing about the old town of Quebec City, Lovecraft calls it “a realisation of that always-beckoning and bitterly-tantalising conception of imaginative fancy –a fairy-tale picture into which one can actually walk.” I think comics could be seen as another way of realising that fantasy.
- I noticed in some of the comics you have made, like “Prufrock” and “Annabel” and “Witch-Wife,” that you choose poems that have a similar theme: love and heartbreak. What draws you to adapt these kinds of poems?
Well, I’m attracted to adapting great poems, and aren’t most great poems about love and heartbreak? I almost feel as though poetry has its origins as a direct outgrowth of humankind’s need to express the sorrow of love –love lost, love unrequited, love the great missed opportunity. Music, on the other hand, seems to my mind like the direct natural outgrowth of humankind’s desire to express the joy of love, or if not quite the joy, the heady passion and desire. That’s why in pop songs an uplifting melody is often combined with sad lyrics. Continue reading