Helen White
Artist’s Statement

Visual poetry allows you to work in two languages at once, the verbal and the visual, much in the way that an actor uses both spoken language and body language. The two elements can echo and complement each other, but they can conflict and disrupt each other too.

The missing language in visual poetry, of course, is the vocal. It is usually impossible to read a visual poem aloud with any confidence that you are “getting it right”—you don’t know where to start and finish, and even if there are whole words to read, there might not be much coherent syntax. And yet it is probably inevitable that when we see writing, we “hear” speech in our heads. So spoken language is usually close by, if just out of reach: visual poetry carries traces of speaking, traces that might be anything from traumatised to flirtatious to buried under piles of bureaucracy, depending on the poem and the poet.

I am fascinated by the idea of writing in order to not say something: presenting the act of trying or failing or refusing to speak. I love working with illegible or partly obscured texts, poems you can only read if you pick them up and play with them in your hands, shake them, hold them up to the light.