Author: Ever Saskya

Ever Saskya writes poetry, fiction, and creates visual art from sound. She is the poetry editor for Dante’s Heart. A graduate of the University of Denver’s doctoral writing program, she is the author of The Porch is a Journey Different from the House. She lives in Denver, Colorado with four puppets and no cats.

To Tell Her Why God is not Just an Umbrella & Wake

Visual Sound Poems

A Visual Sound Poem (VSP) forms from the accumulation of sound waves. The idea of Visual Sound came to me after I heard sounds grunting and streaming down an alley at two in the morning. I had two questions: What would sound look like if it were visual? What is sound capable of? From these questions, I experimented with sounds for seven years. If a person writes with layers of sound waves, could sound be visual? While I waited at the Underground, sounds emanated from a street in London into a recorder in my hand. While I waited at an office in Aurora, other sounds streamed from a CD player and onto a screen as colors. I played the sounds of London and other random sounds (German music, a woman speaking in French, hard core rap music, gospel callings, swarms of bees—all sounds including walking in the room) which produced random colors in sound waves. As sound waves displayed, I captured a fragment of those waves of sounds. Then, I took the fragments and wrote them onto a white page to produce the visual artifact you see in each VSP.

For example, “To Tell Her Why I Know God is not Just an Umbrella” (the VSP shown below) forms from various sound waves. After I captured the waves, I wrote each of them inside the space of this VSP. Utilizing a program, I layered the sound waves over, under, and among the other sounds in order to produce the balance of layers and colors. The waves do not produce these images on their own. An author must write the waves into the physical space of a blank page in order to produce each VSP.

Visual Sound Poems do not stand alone. After the completion of each VSP, the page required more attention. Words started becoming after the visual completion as if the sounds grew beyond their images and began asking for words. Words began to swim around each VSP and attempted to find a place to beach. As words formed around the visual, they took on a life of their own and wanted color, too. I added color to the words to balance the colors with the VSP. The meaning(s) of the VSP changed as language became on the page. The reader could read all the words together as a solid poem or read the colors separately for many small poems within the overall poem. Because of how the VSP communicates with the language on the page, multiple poems live within one poem. Visual Sound is one way that sound can be visual, tangible, and live on in a new way.

Technology allows sound to be visual in this way. The more I work with sound waves, the more I understand what sound is capable of for my field and for language. I will never find the end of sound. This morning, I waited for sounds to enter my window while a business next door attempted to sound proof the bar by my flat. The drive of machinery and ganging up of instruments swirl with the other sounds that haunt an early morning alley. Those sounds seem to move away from me. My next project will be to let sound show me how it is capable of becoming endless.

To Tell Her Why God is not Just an Umbrella