Interdisciplinary Concrete & Puzzle Poetry

Laser Cut Concrete Poem

On display are concrete poetry objects made in the interdiscplinary Pavilion Seminar class "Puzzles, Games, and Poetics", taught in Spring '19 by Mayo NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor Brad Pasanek from the Department of English with help from Makerspace Specialist Jason Bennett from Learning Design & Technology. The class drew students from a wide range of departments, including Astrophysics, Computer Science, World Languages, English, Political Science, and others. It grew as a branch from the trunk of the UVA Puzzle Poetry group, an interdisciplinary collaboration of "makers, coders, and subformalists" (puzzlepoesis.org) who meet weekly to eat cookies, perpetuate hijinx, and generate scholarship. Both the group and the class made/make use of multiple technologies at UVA, including the Rivanna High Performance Computing Cluster, the Architecture School FabLab, and the Wilson Hall Maker Studio.

The resonance between poetry and making is ancient in its roots. The word "poem", Pasanek points out, comes from the Greek "poema", which literally means "a made thing". He is curious about the way poetry is constructed, and how poets use language building blocks within the constraining blueprints of form. The making of concrete poems and poem puzzles is both a playful exploration of that curiosity and an explicit research practice that focuses scholars on the materiality of language in addition to its abstractions. The hope is that students who participate in making poetic objects will experience the poem as a sublime object instead of only a transparent text. By experiencing poetry this way, students find a way to place themselves (material beings as well) in context to the poem instead of losing themselves inside the intellectual realm of the poem.

Interested readers can find many of these poetry objects on display on the 3rd floor of Wilson Hall. Those who wish to join the fun should come to Wilson Hall 117 at 200pm on Fridays for the weekly Puzzle Poetry meeting.