Questions of Light:
Selected Plastic Poems of


HIBINO Funiko was a member of the Japanese VOU group of poets, founded by Kitasono Katue. One of the practices of the group, as described by Kitasono in his 1966 essay A Note On Plastic Poetry. According to Kitasono, "Poetry started with a quill pen, and should should come to an end with a ball-point pen. . . The camera is fit to be used expressively by poets."

He and his group went on to produce "Plastic poems," that is, poems composed of photographs. Kitasono's poems sometimes included text, but always in the Roman alphabet and in English or French; he never used Kanji, Kana, or any other Japanese scripts in his plastic poems. With a few exceptions, the members of the VOU group avoided language as previously understood. Instead, they sought a new iconography and syntax made from photographs. The objects photographed and their treatment after exposure covered a huge spectrum, particularly given the resources available to them.

In my Introduction to Kitasono's major selection of poems translated into English, I suggested that this practice foreshadowed the photgraphic base of the Word Wide Web, and specifically the photo poetry created for it, or with tools related to it.

HIBINO Fumiko was one of the members of the group who took the process to one of its extremes. Her primary work consisted of photographs of light itself. This examination of the basic means by which we see and the medium that allows photographs to be made took her through a remarkable body of work. Like many women in new media, she was not restricted by male dominance of previous art forms, particularly in the relatively free environment of the VOU group. She published some of her work in VOU magazine.

That's about all I or anyone I can find can say for sure about her. John Solt, Kitasono's translator, and his and my friends and colleagues in Japan, including other members of the VOU group, know little about her. The addresses they have found have not yielded responses other than stamps from the post office reading "No longer at this address" or something similar. Several poets who went to the address where she lived while an active member of the VOU group were able to learn nothing from people living in the neighborhood. Perhaps this posting, including the Japanese note at the bottom, will help us locate her. She should certainly be included in collections of VOU group members in the future.

Begin this sequence of Plastic poems by clicking here

Go to Glimpses of Avant Garde Japan

Go to Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry