You might tell me that it’s not poetry, and I’ll tell you that’s a lie.
My pursuit of poetry this year has led me to familiar quarters: Walker, Stafford, Hughes, and Atwood, each with their own specific voice and ability to conjure worlds more real than any in existence. “Hit it” (a Moon Knight comic book from 1982) shares this sorcery.
Together, Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz forge words and pictures in a way that transcends prosaic truth.
“Hit it” is a heck of a poem.
Even in style, the comic feels poetic. The opening pages, and indeed throughout the story, are free from dialogue, the story unfolding in a series of text boxes that read like lines from a poem:
First there is black.
Then there is light and
All the colors of jazz.
And there is sound in these colors.
A wailing trumpet drips cool
Violet, threaded with smoke.
Heavy blue lumbers from the bass
While the clarinet temps
And tantalizes in hot pink counterpoint.
But the drum
The drum beats blood red.”
Moench quotes William Blake in other Moon Knight stories, and Sienkiewicz’s art shares the epic and surreal feel of a Blake painting. “Hit It” deserves to be talked about in the same conversation as Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. Illustrated poetry, but poetry both.
I’ve written about “Hit It” before, this comic that meant so much to me when I read it as a middle schooler. What I felt then holds up. It’s one of those rare treasures of childhood that didn’t turn tin when seen through the palsied eyes of middle age.
It was the narrow mindedness of my then thirteen year old’s English teacher that prompted my most recent visit to Sienkiewicz and Moench. She told her students: “comics aren’t real books and don’t belong in my classroom.” They were to leave them at home, she said; graphic novels were not novels, comic books were not books.
Quietly fuming, I gave my eighth grader the Moon Knight Epic Collection: Final Rest.
It’s the omnibus that presents Moench and Sienkiewicz’s work at its best, and the collection that includes “Hit It.” Truth be told, an artist himself, my teenager was most impressed by the art. But I’ll argue that art and words support each other, and along with those images it is poetry like this that elevates “Hit It” to something astounding.
The crowning madness
Long live the king.
And so, Moon Knight,
The night was yours after all…
And once started
The drum beats
Blood red …forever.”
To that foolish or misguided middle school teacher who says there is no place in her classroom for comics, I say there is as much a place as there is for poetry, and sometimes genre lines are as blurred as the cityscape in a panel by Sienkiewicz. No lie.
Continuing this year of poetry next week with Dog Songs by Mary Oliver.