Nicky Arscott, “The Canal”
NICKY ARSCOTT lives in Wales. She has an MA in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin. She has had poetry comics published most recently in INK BRICK, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review and Nashville Review. Her exhibition, ‘Soft Mutation’, will take place at MOMA Wales in 2017, and she can be found online in a lot of places.
ON POETRY COMICS AND PUGS
I studied literature and creative writing at university, but I have always drawn and painted as well. My brother runs Eyeball Comix and my interest in comics probably coincides with him starting to post comics to my kids, and me having to go through the comics first to make sure they didn’t get nightmares. He sent them The Night Riders by Matt Furie and it made me realise how many levels of accessibility a comic or graphic piece can work on, compared to something like (particularly my style of) poetry.
I started doing poetry comics as part of a project with an American poet, Greg Koehler, where I turned his poetry into a comic strip, and I started to think about how the drawings didn’t necessarily need to be just an illustration or reflection of the writing but that there could be an extra layer of interpretation going on, on top of that. Then a friend said I was actually doing poetry comics, and I realised there was a whole group of people doing all sorts of things under the umbrella of ‘Poetry Comics’ or ‘Comics Poetry’. There are various manifestos and non-manifestos.
I’m still not sure whether a lot of what I do would fall into the contemporary ‘Poetry Comics’ category because I think my stuff is often mostly led by the writing more than anything. “History & Exploitation of the Pug,” for example, is driven by my love for an old friend who once spent hours trying to prove to us that Pugs were bred specifically for oral sex with Victorian women. She was typing all sorts of combinations into Google convinced that somewhere there was evidence that this was the true reason for Pugs. A Pug is also a nightmarish visual statement in and of itself, though, in my opinion.
Gallery: “History & Exploitation of the Pug”
Other pieces like ‘The Canal’ are driven primarily by the narrative elements of the poetry, but I think so much of my own writing depends on visual imagery that maybe it’s all the same in the end. I feel in awe of traditional graphic novels and comics: it’s a bit like how I feel as a poet looking at novelists and thinking ‘how the hell do you DO that?’ For example Megg and Mogg by Simon Hanselman; I can’t get over how he manages to basically write a novel made up of comic strips.
The common aesthetic thread is that I have to believe in what I’m trying to do; otherwise it’s just a load of shite. I think I’ve learnt the hard way that there is no point doing things half-heartedly because then it doesn’t mean anything. Certain things DO keep cropping up thematically: toilets, horses, vaginas, politicians. Sometimes there is crossover.
ON PROJECTS AND FOCUS
I’m currently working on a large scale poetry comic in the form of large canvas panels that will be exhibited in MOMA Wales in 2017. Each painting will be a panel of the comic, using Welsh and English, and featuring people from Llanbrynmair, the small village where I live. It’s going to be about the Welsh language, children, the migration of sea trout, hunting, and dead sheep. I’ll probably try and squeeze some Brexit in there as well, if I can. It will be one of the first comics published by Mother Mary Press. Another new project is a comic collaboration with Eric Ngalle Charles, a poet who fled Cameroon and now lives in Cardiff. It should be out with Wales Arts Review next year. I’m very excited about that.
Mother Mary Press is a separate thing and will involve other writers and artists teaming up together, while A View From Rural Wales is more like art therapy, using my local Tory MP as the main character. He flies around Europe with a big gay bee, getting into all sorts of scrapes. Then my old paintings website, and the poetry comics one. What a mess! I could say that the contemporary art world seems to prefer an artist that is focussed on one particular thing and has a unique ‘brand’, and that the multiple websites are my attempt to pretend that this is what I am doing, via hiding some stuff from the people I am trying to convince to publish /sell my work.
The more truthful answer, though, is that I’m all over the place and I think I’ve vaguely tried to divide it into serious vs. stupid. I should probably try and do some amalgamating—which sounds disgusting.
Want to be considered for future installments of The New Comics? Send your work to Comics Curator Keith McCleary via the Entropy submissions page.