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Image, Music, and Language

Magazine Review by Katy Haas

I love when a poem has visual components, so I was happy to see a couple pieces by Ryan Mihaly in the Summer 2020 issue of The Massachusetts Review with visual accompaniment.

“[B]” and “[A♯/B♭]” are paired with clarinet fingering charts. In “[B],” the speaker looks back at “a catalogue of embarrassments,” which are broken down and pointed out on the chart as “Wrong name,” “Loss of language,” and “Failed elegance.” “[A♯/B♭]” explores language and communication, finishing, “Music is not a language because it cannot be translated into anything. It can only be described. A♯, then, is the word ‘handiwork’ mispronounced ‘hand-eye-work.’” The chart above shows a corresponding “Hand,” “Eye,” and “Work.”

While both poems would work just fine without the visual aspect, their presence is still welcome and enhances each piece, the text almost working as a footnote to guide the reader through the charts.

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