Edited by Wendy and Tyler Chin-Tanner
A Wave Blue World ($16.99)
by Linda Stack-Nelson
Poetry is hard, comics are easy. These are the ubiquitous oversimplifications that Embodied: An Intersectional Feminist Comics Poetry Anthology skillfully subverts through its artfully illustrated texts. Featuring the talent of poets and comics artists both well-known and on the rise, this book shows a wide variety of perspectives on the experience of marginalized gender through two mediums that are often, themselves, marginalized.
From abstract to concretely narrative, the interpretations of poems in this book run a visually startling and emotionally affecting gamut. There are pieces about parenthood like “Soft Landing” and “Birth.” There are pieces about history, both personal and
cultural, like “A Love Letter to the Decades I Have Kissed or Notes on Turning 50” and “X.” There are dissections of colonialism, U.S. hegemony, and their effects on the body in “Red Woman” and “Settlement.” And throughout, the entries investigate desire, power, and the relationship of societal standards of gender to those who live through and beyond them.
Some of the most interesting pieces in the book are those that play with the shape of poetry as well as its imagery. In “Tapestry,” artist Morgan Beem and letterer Cardinal Rae combine their talents to interpret Khaty Xiong’s poem with text boxes that reflect the shape of the original poem, creating art that flows with the narrator. In “Voyages,” Rae’s lettering combines with the art of Jen Hickman to bring special attention to Miller Oberman’s line breaks through the deliberate spatial separation of the text boxes. In “Rubble Girl,” Rae’s choice to break up lines among panels helps clarify images alongside Sara Woolley’s art and paces the reader through the emotional tumult of the poem by Jenn Givhan.
The diverse art styles and mediums used to create the works in Embodied are on display as well in process pieces provided in an appendix at the end of the book. If one reads past the creator bios, one can discover thumbnails, pencils, roughs, and inks that showcase the development of the finished products. These shed light on not only the processes the artists used to create their pieces, but also on the variety of relationships the artists had to the text they were working with. The appendix also includes a “Study Guide” with questions and prompts to help readers, particularly those less familiar with either of the genres at play here, interpret and dive into the words and art. All these elements together help slow the reader, encouraging them to take in the full depth of the work before them.
Embodied is a marriage of forms that makes one ask why all poetry can’t be accompanied with artistic interpretation. By bringing together the “pretentious” world of poetry and the “low-brow” medium of comics, editors Wendy and Tyler Chin-Tanner and the good folks at A Wave Blue World have created a beautiful and important meditation on the complexities of image, language, and gender that pushes the boundaries of all three.