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The Poetry of Comics: A Conversation with Collage Artist Mita Mahato

“Comics made the confusion and desperation feel contained. By ‘contained’ I don’t mean controlled—more the feeling of ‘I can deal with this piece of my grief, explore it, turn it around, and add context to it.’”

This is The Poetry of Comics, a series of conversations with artists working at the intersection of comics and poetry.

eerie and enchanting poetry comicsVisual Poetry Series

Eliza Harris: I’d love to know more about how you came to call your work poetry comics.

How am I rhyming visually? What might enjambed panels look like? Is this visual alliteration?I can see why this category fits my work

There is a two-page spread of collaged paper on a white background. On the left side is a crow cut from grey paper with black feathers floating all around it. Above the crow is written, “There once was a crow from Hawaii.” On the right page is a tiger cut from grey paper against a backdrop of orange stripes. Below the tiger is written, “There once was a tiger from Java.”
Excerpt of “The Extinction Limericks” from In Between

EH: Speaking of elegies, your poetry comix are often about loss, both environmental and personal. Why this medium for that subject?

nothingcontainedcontrolled I can deal with this piece of my grief, explore it, turn it around, and add context to itplay

EH: Can you talk about why you sometimes spell with an ?


EH: In line with the countercultural history of underground comix, your own work often exposes and interrogates capitalist destruction. Do you think there’s something about comics/comix that lends itself to cultural critique?


There is a collage of muted greys. In it, there are two panels, one above the other. Inside the top panel is a figure cut from newsprint of a person with short hair holding their hand out to a figure with longhair and angry eyes. There are lines of green dots coming from the figure with long hair and turning yellow as they pass through the short haired figure. In the bottom panel the figures are hugging and yellow dots fill the background behind the short haired figure and green dots feel the background of the long haired figure. There’s circle of are red, green, and yellow dots where their hearts would be. The word “tie” is visible from the newsprint in the head of the short haired figure.
In Between

EH: Of course I want to talk more about your book In Between. I love that title because of how this book exists between comix, poetry, cut paper, and collage, and the characters within it are also somewhere in between human and animal. What does mean for you in relation to this book?

In Between

EH: One of my favorite pieces of yours is “IT’SALLOVER And Other Poems on Animals.” In that series of poems, you repeat trite phrases and string the words together in a way that, for me, both emptied them of meaning and somehow also made them feel more sincere. What was your aim with these poems?

There is a white background with square spirals shapes drawn in orange pen. On top, is a the shape of a dear cut from bright red tissue. On top of the deer is written “sososorrysososorry” repeated over and over.
Excerpt of “IT’SALLOVER And Other Poems on Animals” for Anomaly

What do I have to offer in the face of planetary global loss and extinction that my own consumer habits are contributing to?

How can we grieve better?

EH: I had the pleasure of visiting your installation “We are contaminated by our encounters at  Common Area Maintenance in Seattle, another work drawing attention to ecological loss. In your description of the installation, you quote Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins:

“The ‘survival’ featured in U.S. television shows or alien-planet stories is a synonym for conquest and expansion. I will not use the term that way. Please open yourself to another usage. . . . [S]taying alive—for every species—requires livable collaborations. Collaboration means working across difference, which leads to contamination. Without collaborations, we all die” (Tsing 27, 28).

I’d love to hear more about this installation and how you see collaboration as a part of your work.

Eat Me

There is a photograph at night of a large backlit sign. In large blue letter on the sign is written “Eat Me” agains a transparent pink background. On top are darker pink straight and curved lines, as well as “eat me” written a few more times in cursive.
Photograph of  “We are contaminated by our encounters,”  

EH: Could you tell me about your process of making cut-paper and collage comix?

I’m looking for this particular word or a photo of this animal

There is two page collage of yellow rabbits with grey human arms and legs in various playful positions. Behind them are sparse trees cut from grey paper. On the left page reads, “more human” and on the right page reads, “than rabbit.”
Excerpt of “Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit: An Auto-Elegy” from Evergreen: Tales from the Gloomy Pacific Northwest

EH: What artists would you recommend for readers interested in the intersection of poetry and comics?

Sarah Leavitt,Instagram

Language Barrierthere

How to Not Be Afraid of Everything

EH: What projects are you working on currently?

There is a collage of orcas against a white background. Over the orcas, hands hold frames of various sizes and colors. At the bottom is written “fin.”
Excerpt of “Lullaby” for Shenandoah