“Attention Massachusetts/I have ascended above you,” Franklin Einspruch writes across a watery painting of clouds that opens his book “Cloud on a Mountain: Comics Poems from Greylock.”
Comics poetry is a hybrid of comics and poetry that foregrounds the condensed language of the two arts. These comics poems are the fruit of residencies that the Boston artist and writer (and friend of mine) spent in 2015 and 2018 at Bascom Lodge on Mount Greylock in Adams, Massachusetts. At 3,491 feet elevation, it’s the highest point in the Commonwealth.
“They’re about what it’s like to be up in that environment on the mountain. There’s this long history of people being upon the mountain. Thoreau was up on Mount Greylock and wrote about Mount Greylock,” Einspruch says. “That feeling to be the latest speck of dust to roll across this landscape is important. I think that’s what it’s about.”
Einspruch has written about art for The New Criterion, Art in America and his long-running blog Artblog.net. He’s the founding editor of the online art magazine Delicious Line. He says he has made comics poetry since 2006 and he’s headed to MuseumsQuartier Wien in Austria this coming spring on a Fulbright to work on more. In 2012, he published the anthology “Comics as Poetry,” with an introduction by poet and art critic William Corbett. Part of the attraction for Einspruch is the feeling that comics poetry “has not been done yet, which is a gift.”
“No cold no damp like/blown fog at/blue dusk,” Einspruch writes in blue across a black horizon under ominous blue-gray clouds. “Cloud on a Mountain,” published by his New Modern Press, debuted at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) in Cambridge in October. He wrote and made black and white ink drawings while up on the mountain. These works then inspired comics poems paintings that he made in egg tempera on paper when he returned to his studio. Each poem is two panels, side by side, for a panoramic landscape format.
In his own work, Einspruch says, “comics poetry has always been connected with the Japanese tradition, especially the haiku tradition. So Basho, the poet wandering the landscape.” Also the Chinese Buddhist poet Han-shan (Cold Mountain) and the Japanese Zen Buddhist poets Ryokan and Hakuin. What Einspruch takes away from this is a simplicity, a sparseness, the art of leaving out. “A lot of different cultures understood that but it’s especially appreciated in Asian poetry.”
“Tree blinks and you’re/gone,” Einspruch writes across a blue sky above a green slope punctuated by one evergreen.
“We just disappear from this aspect of reality very quickly,” Einspruch says. “Trees have been around hundreds of years. Rocks have been around thousands of years. Greater minds have come through.”
Einspruch adds, “I’m really there to have the experience and interpret the experience. … The meaning of the thing is not mine to decide. How can I give an artistic experience of the thing that someone else can feel? If I do that then the meaning will take care of itself.”
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