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Mary Ellen Solt

From Concrete Poetry: A World View (1968, Indiana University Press)

In 1957 Brazilian concrete poetry captured the interest of Kitasono Katué, Japanese avant-garde poet and editor of you. Later, in 1960, Katué assisted in the presentation of an exhibition of Brazilian Concrete Poetry at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, organized by the Brazilian composer and poet L. C. Vinholes and the architect J. R. Stroetter. There has been continued interest in concrete poetry in Japan, which is not surprising, for the ancient written character is an ancestor of the visual concrete poem. Katué makes an ideogram (or a constellation) of the old characters in "Shiro" ("White")

He believes, however, that poetry that "started with a quill" should "come to an end with a ball-point pen." He prefers to use instead the camera, for it "can create a brilliant poem even from trifling objects." Words, according to Katué, "are the most uncertain signals severally devised by human beings for communication. Further, Zen, philosophy and literature etc. have driven them away to worthless rubbish." So he makes instead of the poem of words the Plastic Poem, which gives us the "'apparatus of a poem in which rhythm and meanings are not essential factors." Katué finds his Plastic Poem "in the viewfinder of his camera, with a handful of paper scraps, boards or glasses etc." "Portrait of a Poet 2," 1966, supports the above assertions effectively. The plastic poem, in which the object substitutes for the word, may well be a descendant of picture writing.

Seiichi Nilkuni, also of Japan, has, on the other hand, restored new life and beauty to the old calligraphic characters. He has found them adaptable to both constructivist and expressionistic structures.

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