Spectral Resemblances and Elusive Connections: A Practice-led Research Dialogue between Poetry and Digital Imagery


University of Canberra and the North Melbourne Institute of TAFE


In the early 20th century the function of poetic imagery was given international attention through the Imagist movement in London and, ever since, many poets have self-consciously employed and exploited imagist techniques. At the same time poets and visual artists have frequently explored  connections  between  each  other’s  works  considering,  as  Art Berman writes, that “the visual can provide direct and even prelinguistic knowledge since the psyche presumably has operations that precede or take logical precedence over […] language” (49).

Interart comparisons suggest that poetry and the visual arts can be talked about as if “work in one medium […] were operating in another” (Dayan 3). However, it is often unclear what it might mean to describe a work of visual art as “poetic” or a poem as “visual.” This paper explores these ideas with reference to Paul Hetherington’s and Anita Fitton’s practice-led research project, Spectral Resemblances.

The project is investigating some of the ways in which written poetry and still visual imagery may convey related meanings. It asks whether meaningful connections between poetic and visual imagery are at best “spectral” and elusive. It explores how the juxtapositioning of complementary works in these different media may allow resonances to play back and forth in the conceptual spaces between them.

Keywords: Imagery, poetry, interart, digital, indeterminate, spectral, resemblances