With this week’s prime focus on images within books, I found my PET Book research was a little more obscure than previous weeks – this text, aside from what I presume is a printer’s mark on the cover page, has no images. The three poems, apart from the titles, have no spaces in between. This creates a sense of continuum between the poems, as if the purpose was for the poems to be read consecutively. The poem’s similar themes of life, death and society further this assumption of mine. This design wouldn’t perhaps have the same success if it were poems of opposite themes – as the reader I would desire images to signify different tones between poems. However, this may detract from my preferred state before reading a poem – the feeling of the unknown. I may not want an image to spoil the subject of the poem as I have the view that images and text work together to create meaning. I do not see them as separate entities. Juliet Fleming writes in How to Look at Printed Flower that printer’s flowers, the ‘stylized, interlaced and foliated designs that appear in printed books’, encourage readers to […] engage in the production of their own perceptual and conceptual analogies between the two visual systems.’ I do agree the printer’s flowers, and images within texts in general, turn ‘the printed page into an aesthetic space that encourages projective […] behaviour.’ However, I do not view them as two separate visual systems; but instead when put together a visual system of its own, a hybrid. Although the beauty of image and text is their ability to stand on their own and give an effect to an audience, I believe that this effect can be pushed through the use of both image and text.
I saw a pure example of this in William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or The President’s Daughter: A narrative of slave life in the United States. On the title page it also reads ‘with a sketch of the author’s life’, this automatically aids in the personal tone of the text. The reader is automatically associating the text with the image, and most importantly the author.
Although the text would have been poignant on its own – the images alongside portray different events in the novel with incredible detail, thus adding to the impact that the topic has on its reader.
This is also shown in poetry form, within William Blake’s The Tyger and London. These poems’ amalgamation of text and image creates one visual system, a system that acts to portray meaning and pleasant aesthetics. The image of the tiger has been said to highlight the subject of the poem, but also stands as a beautiful image on its own.
I view these poems images to be a good model for how I would have liked to see images in my PET book. With the similar topic of social criticism a focus of Blake’s The Tyger and London and Robert Blair’s The Grave, Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard and Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village, I am increasingly more disappointed of the lack of images within this collection. I enjoy the style of Blake’s illustrations, but I feel that this image only works due to the length of the poem and it’s ability to be read on one page – the reader sees the text as a whole, text and image combined. However, due to the length of my poems I don’t think it would be as successful in this style. I did recall seeing images the first time I read Gray’s Elegy, prior to this research. Richard Bentley’s illustrations alongside Gray’s text act as a successful example of how text and image work alongside, and within, each other.
Whether due to cost or the opinion that images detract from the text within poetry, I personally think that Isaac Hill missed out on a vital addition to this collection of fine poems. In fact, even one single image depicting the poems’ comments on society opposite the cover page would have created a more engaging reader’s experience, like that shown in William Wells Brown’s Clotel: or a President’s Daughter or William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.