The Proposals Series


The term visual poetry refers to experiments undertaken with the semantic character of words, and as an experimental genre, visual poetry blends multiple mediums. Visual poetry seeks to be seen as a painting or photograph, and read for the lyric associations of poetry. Often reducing language to typographical forms, visual poetry experiments with situating language into new and varied spaces. With a long history stretching back to Greek and Roman examples, at its core, visual poetry celebrates the visual forms of language.


  • Three Black Bars, Highway 41, Kettleman City, Callifornia
    Black Bars, Highway 41, Kettleman City, California, silver gelatin print with dry transfer lettering, 1979.


In the late 1970’s, I sought ways to merge my fascinations with visual poetry and my growing interest in photography. Billboard advertising dominates the experience of driving, and in my frequent travels, I became intrigued with blank billboards. With their previous advertising tenant scraped away or whited-out, these huge panels called out to their next advertising customer and to me. After seeing miles of advertising clutter, these blank billboards provided a tremendous visual relief. Shortly after beginning to photograph these bland billboards, I began to see these spaces as frameworks for visual poems. As joyful responses to the visual clutter of the highway, Prosposals were created with the hope that someday my visual poems might be displayed on massive billboards.


Starting first as a silver gelatin print, the blank spaces of the Proposals prints were treated with dry transfer lettering to create the final image. Selections from Proposals first appeared in Kaldron, A Journal of Visual Poetry and Language, Number 12, 1980. Selections from Proposals will appear in Renegade, A Collection of International Visual Poetry & Language Arts, ed. Andrew Topel, San Diego University Press, forthcoming 2015.


David Arnold, May 2015


Visual Poetry Resources:

Alan Prohm, Visual Poetry, Some Palette Analysis for the Renegade Anthology.

Alan Prohm, Visual Poetics: Meaning Space from Mallarmé to Metalheart, Stanford, Comparative Literature, 2004.

Visual Poetry in the Avant Writing Collection, edited with an introduction by John M. Bennett.

Kaldron Online, edited by Karl Kempton, Karl Young, and Harry Polkinhorn

The Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry.

Willard Bohn, Modern Visual Poetry, University of Delaware Press

Andrew Topel, Renegade, an online journal of international visual poetry


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