I was suggested to check out a fun project by GE Gallas called The Poet and the Flea, an online graphic novel about William Blake. Now, I remember studying Blake back in Plymouth (ages ago, it seems like) and aside from writing a paper on Songs of Innocence and Experience, I can’t recall much about him or his work. This is rather to my own detriment as I sit here realizing that one of the courses I’m taking next year is all about Blake – time to bust out the history of English lit texts, I guess.
But I digress. Here’s how the writer/illustrator describes her work:
“The Poet and the Flea is a reimagining of the life of the poet-painter William Blake. Set in 1790, at the onset of The Industrial Revolution, William suffers from the death of his beloved younger brother, Robert. Catherine (Kate) Blake attempts to comfort her husband, but cannot dispel his grief. During this spell of anxiety, William is visited by an ominous creature: The Ghost of a Flea. The Flea reveals a vested interest in William’s spiritual well-being — the result of an unorthodox wager. Will William triumph over The Flea’s sinister meddling? Or will he fall victim to The Flea’s corruption?”
Is that not compelling enough for y’all? I love a good ominous creature. Not so much a fan of the heavy Lovecraftian stuff, but I’m not concerned with that for this work. Okay, let’s see what notes I took while reading it.
It reads like a zine, which I both appreciate and enjoy. The art is abstract but somehow nostalgic, which I think is from a combination of Gallas’ vision and DIY approach to putting this comic out there. The incorporation of poetry with visuals hearkens back to my own past attempts to reconcile favourite writings with a modern media (I had a thing for Poe’s Ligeia), a project that clearly bore no fruit for me, but here it has worked well. There’s only 30 pages of the work online at present, which feels disappointingly short, but updates suggest that she’s still actively working on the project, even if it’s not available for consumption just yet.
There’s a strikingly lovely sense of the macabre throughout the work, very textural in a well-chosen greyscale. To be perfectly honest, and I say this after revisiting his poems to be certain, I never really saw Blake through this particular lens – that is, his poetry read to me in a much more light and rose-tinted lens, as it were. I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t studied him in depth. The Poet and the Flea is making me reconsider my stance on his work. I’m very interested to see where this goes, particularly in conjunction with the course I’m taking.
If you want to check out the available pages then swing on over to The Poet and the Flea and have a look. If you dig it like I do, share it around and spread the good word. You all know how much I love indie comics! And if you do check it out, let me know what you think. Leave me a comment, tweet, you know the drill. I’m interested in more recs as well. xo