Language to Cover a Wall: Visual Poetry through its Changing Media


November 17, 2011–February 18, 2012



LANGUAGE to Cover a Wall abounds in visual and concrete poetry, in which the visual arrangement of text, images, and symbols combine to create an intended effect. This alternative to standard linear poetry occupies a space between poetry and visual art but some of it — “intermedia” poetry — blurs the distinction between writing, graphic art, video, dance, music, and digital media.

The exhibition demonstrates the dramatic shift successive new media have brought to the concepts and definitions of poetry. The exhibition curatorial team (Steve McCaffery, David Gray Chair Professor of Poetry and Letters, UB Department of English; Karen Mac Cormack, adjunct professor of English; and Michael Basinski, Curator of the UB Poetry Collection) seeks to increase awareness of concrete and visual poetry and its ongoing possibilities. A historical range of works by George Herbert, Lewis Carroll, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Barbara Kruger, Henri Chopin, Robert Lax, Dick Higgins, Daniel Spoerri, Alison Knowles, d.a. levy, Bob Cobbing, Siebren Versteeg, bpNichol, Bill Bissett, and Guy de Cointet are among the three-hundred plus works on view.

A “Digital Poetry” component curated by Loss Pequeño Glazier, Professor, UB Department of Media Study, will be presented in the Second Floor Gallery, Center for the Arts. It brings the traditions of visual poetry into present-day digital poetics with an emphasis on sound, video, and language, most often using computer process media practices. These practices include works in a variety of formats such as computer-generated poetry, time-based works, language and video, and digital poetry and dance. This exhibition shows new works alongside rarely exhibited historical works crucial to the field, presenting some of the most highly celebrated digital poets from the United States, Canada, France, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Spain, Austria, Sweden, and Norway.