Then why did I use a toilet paper?

Recently, the Indianapolis Review accepted my super long (more than five meters), toilet-paper graphic poem! I was so happy that the editors supported my new challenge, which is how to adapt a long poem into a limited space of graphic poem.

In the last article, I wrote about how I cut 73% of the words from my written poem, “Thursday”, and created a graphic poem, “On the Black Hill.” For this one, the original written poem is obviously longer than “Thursday,” so I wanted to approach it differently.

The graphic poem, “Spaceflight Sonata P”, was adapted from "Spaceflight Sonata vol.1 & 2” (The Seattle Review, Issue 11) and these original poems are fourteen pages long. My new obsession is writing long poems. I thought that I am a very minimalist writer, but I found I liked writing longer poems as if playing sonatinas and sonatas, one after another on the piano.

“Spaceflight Sonata P” has elements of Egyptian culture and history. P also stands for papyrus, but I used toilet paper, ultra-soft & strong. I have been creating graphic poems inspired by the Japanese Emaki (picture-scroll) story telling method and learning from Midori Sano’s books.

Then why did I use a toilet paper?

With the traditional Emaki method, the artists can choose not only drawing particular scans, but also background papers and styles of calligraphy. Here is one of example where Midori Sano explains how the written words look rushed, almost like being on top of each another.

A summary of this Emaki is that Aoi no Ue (the first wife of Genji) is dying, so in building up the end of this chapter, the artist creates a dramatic effect though handwriting. The background paper is brown with a bit of gold, but it looks much gloomier if you observe background paper from other chapters.

When I read Midori Sano’s research, I though that this method may be a key element of adapting a long, written poem into a graphic poem.

"Spaceflight Sonata vol.1 & 2” contain multiple storylines about space, history, and the future (if you have spare time and money, please order the issue from Seattle Review). I think that human history may as well be written on toilet paper—frequently flushed away—before we learn from our decisions, despite how horrifying some were.

Therefore, I wanted to experiment with my storylines about “human history” being represented in writing on toilet paper. In this meaning, “Spaceflight Sonata P” has more visual emphasis than previous approaches. This method worked this time, but I may want to mix it up and have a more written emphasis on some future projects.

These on-going works also have visual elements that are stronger than the written portions. There is no right or wrong method here because a process (you may try to create one or several graphic poems) is like a workout. I think that poetic trial and error is the same as push-ups or squats building muscle.

But I can clearly say that my brain is stimulated when alternating my pieces between a spectrum of visual and written, which sharpens my senses to find other topics to write about. I love this feeling.

Choosing materials while thinking of reasons can be a lot fun. Probably, this is my favorite part of the process. Creating graphic poems are always a pleasure to me because it can create very festive and colorful experiences in my brain.

It is important to know why, or have a reason for choosing a material. Art and poetry should have creative freedom; however, I believe that they should be meaningful and explainable. And it should support its own theme and project.

(I love Q&As because I think the interaction is an important key to improving one’s writing/editing skills.)

The smoothness or roughness of a particular fabric may change the way you present certain emotions with it; exactly like the Emaki artists chose background papers and handwriting styles for each chapter of the “Tale of Genji.” It is the same with everything from paint type, brush tips, pencils, plastics, photos, pictures, and anything else you use in the creative process.

Some people tell me that I am lucky because I can visit Japan to purchase these fabulous papers, which is true. But I use many papers and almost any material available to me (look at the toilet paper graphic poem!), including the color printed coupons in grocery store receipts, bits of an old towel, and shredded Sallie Mae letters. I also use old greeting cards, magazines, candy wrappers, basically anything around me I can modify to fit my work. It is an inexpensive profession, indeed!

To be continued…