Historically, visual poetries originate in an exploration of, or in an exultation in, the visual forms of language. Whether we consider the millennial arts of calligraphy (East Asian, Islamic or European), the ancient tradition of shaped-text or “pattern” poetry (Simias of Rhodes, ca. 300BC; George Herbert, 17th Century; Guillaume Apollinaire, 1910’s, etc.) or the particularly modern practice of spatialized free verse that begins with Stéphane Mallarmé at the end of the 19th Century, visual poetry emerges where writing realizes the complementary potentials of its own visual forms.
A gallery of samples:
See some writings on Visual Poetics: Here
The fact that visual poetry today remains a marginal practice, rarely given much attention within the academy, is strange considering mainstream literature’s own anxieties in the face of the advancing visualization, or de-literarification, of culture. Where conventional literature now appears marginal, even archaic, within a cultural formation which increasingly privileges modes of viewing and mediated interactivity over traditional reading, visual poetry deserves recognition for having long ago assumed a position much more central to the major media shifts at work within culture.
For more on this, and the theory of literary intermediality, see my research page on visual poetics: here