thalia: a survey

Following the international coding of visual poetry, thalia puts a small gloss at the bottom of her poems. In these she does not translate components of one language into another, but rather glosses icons from one writing system to another. She builds her poems in English, but English as transcribed in Pitman's Shorthand. Working with Pitman's, thalia builds simple icons In some instances, such as "Desert Storm," she can create a clear pictorial image. In other instances, such as "nuclear fears," the pictorial image, in this case the dove of peace distorted by fear, moves closer to an emblematic figure. thalia has based much of her visual poetry on single terms, and this intensifies the emblematic nature of the poems. During a brief period around the turn of the year 2000, she moved towards a more complex base, and these pieces show as much felicity and skill as the earlier poems.

Like a number of Japanese poets, thalia recasts and reforms an existing writing system, without making it arcane or inaccessible to many readers throughout the world. Kanji script formed the base for Japanese poets such as Niikuni Seiichi; thalia uses shorthand as the ground for her work.

When thalia began her visual poems, taking shorthand dictation was the job of secretaries, most of them overworked and underpaid women. The dictations themselves were the dictates of men in positions of power -- that is, literraly, the words of dictators. For generations the women who took dictation were a subserviant class, treated as little more than machines. On one level, thalia's subversion of this language suggests a revolt against authority of all sorts; on another level, it suggests a revolt against the arrogance of wealth and power; on perhaps yet another, it could suggest just how much a rebellion of secretaries at the time when shorthand was in common use could have brought the industrial world to a screeching halt. To me, the work initially seemed to contain kernels of rebellion against the more suffocating modes of anthology concrete -- that is, a rigid, conformist genre dominated and largely controlled by Brasilian military dictators.

thalia's work sticks to a limited set of formal patterns and avoids complex ideas. Repetition of strategy and limitation of basic ideas gives the work a mechanical quality. This may suggest a descriptive rather than rebelious take on the era when Pitman's Shorthand was indispensible. The work takes on static and heraldic qualities in keeping with the base in isolated words and short phrases.

Since the glosses for her visual poems might be difficult to decipher at the image size presented on-screen, we have included enlargements of most of these glosses below each poem. To access the poems, click on the highlighted titles below.

--Karl Young

|      attack      |      nuclear fears      |      Army     |

|      Desert Storm      |      Eugenics      |      Deaths In custody      |      Justice     |

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Copyright © 1996 and 2000 by Karl Young

This is a cooperative effort by Kaldron and Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry.