“In the Countryside.” A Poem-Comic by Lauren Haldeman and Jesse Nathan

An Unclassifiable Work of Art

January 11, 2024  By Jesse Nathan and Lauren Haldeman

We are poets, but Lauren is also a visual artist who writes graphic novels and short comics. We’ve collaborated a couple of times before on what Lauren calls poem-comics. It’s a genre that brings together two forms that usually don’t have a lot of truck with one another, where the visual accompaniments create something new out of the two forms.

Jesse and Lauren met in Iowa City, and eventually began collaborating. Lauren would take a poem and deepen it by creating a graphic element—by adding new layers and visual rhythms, by bringing out elements in the words that were latent but unseen in the poem. It’s not that Lauren illustrates it, but more that she makes another kind of poem out of it, inside it, and the two entwine to create a new, genre-less poetry. At least that’s one of the ways we think about it. But it doesn’t really matter what you call it.

The words in this one come from translations of sayings from the region of Kansas where Jesse grew up, arranged in such a way that the lines speak to and against one another. It’s a voice that turns out to be many voices, a voice that feels the truth in extreme and contradictory positions.

—Jesse Nathan and Lauren Haldeman


Jesse Nathan and Lauren Haldeman
Jesse Nathan and Lauren Haldeman
Lauren Haldeman is the author of Team Photograph, Instead of Dying (winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry) and Calenday. A graphic novelist and poet, she’s received an Iowa Arts Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award and fellowships from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Find her online: http://laurenhaldeman.com

Jesse Nathan's first book, Eggtooth, won the New Writers Award in Poetry. It was published last September by Unbound Edition Press, with a foreword by Robert Hass. His poems appear in the Paris Review, the New York Review of Books, BOMB, and elsewhere. Nathan teaches literature at UC Berkeley. He was raised in northern California and rural Kansas, and he lives now in Oakland.

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