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Artist-in-Residence Bridget Brewer Explores New Poetry Comics Genre

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When writer Bridget Brewer found herself unable to settle on a single medium for her complex poetry project, "Relic," she decided to embrace the gray area between genres and work in an up-and-coming art form: poetry comics. An esoteric cousin of the graphic novel, the genre is just starting to come into its own, spurred by authors like Bianca Stone and Oliver Baez Bendorf and publications like the experimental micro-press Ink Brick.

"There's a huge difference between illustrating a poem and having a poetry comic," Brewer explained, "When we're illustrating a poem, we create a drawing that accompanies the poem. But in poetry comics, both the image and the poem have their own contexts. They're not necessarily trying to elaborate on each other, it's more like they're building a conversation with each other—it's like this third space gets created where you're experiencing the image and the poem, and then this other meaning happens."

Brewer is creating that meaning at Surel's Place, where she's the November artist in residence. She has spent her time there working on "Relic," which she described as a surreal "illuminated manuscript performance novel" that delves into the history of Catholic relics and explores traumatic memories: the former in text and the latter in hand-drawn images. She chose the poetry comic genre because it emphasizes emotion and creates a unique reading experience by tugging the eye back and forth from element to element.

COURTESY SUREL'S PLACE / BRIDGET BREWER
  • Courtesy Surel's Place / Bridget Brewer

On Thursday, Dec. 6, Brewer will read a draft of "Relic" at Surel's Place backed by projections of her drawings (expect talking bones), but before that, she will teach a poetry comics workshop on Saturday, Dec. 1. The class will start with an introduction to the basics of both poetry and drawing before, as Brewer put it, "combining those two languages."

"We start by looking at, okay, if we know what a stanza is in a poem, what does that look like as a drawing? Where can we have a line break in a graphic piece?" she said.

Brewer's workshop will be open to anyone age 13 or older who's interested in breaking boundaries with a genre that's far from black-and-white. As she put it: "It's like all of the gray area—which is like everything, ever."