Crossword Poems


3 Questions for Koss

What was your process for creating this work?

I mount pages and elements to a backing and alter with homemade grounds and paint, plus pencils and other art materials. While the final raw product leans towards art brute, the making of them is actually painstaking. I don’t want them to be designed or precious. I want them to look like they made themselves which they sort of did.

What is the significance of the form you chose?

I think a lot about time, how people pass it, and how we perceive it, the artificiality of it. Also, how art comes from ordinary moments and might be found anywhere (including in puzzles). Manila paper, the puzzle books, the yellowness and cheapness of them, and the ephemeral aspect of doing puzzles (and discarding them), for me, evoke a sort of timeless feel. They haven’t changed significantly in decades. I imagine them as sort of artifacts, emerging from some primordial sludge (paint). The paint, which is really sediment, is a kind of visual metaphor and conveys its own sense of time. These sometimes feel nostalgic, but also strange and new. Another interesting aspect to me is that crossword and other word-based puzzles employ language in a unique way—outside of communication.

What is the significance of this work to you?

Restricting the language to what is found and adding complementary or disparate elements allows the work to develop its own life and significance. It’s potentially transcendent, but of course, that depends on the viewer through which it becomes newly signified, or it can remain un-signified, occupying its own field outside of written language. For me, there’s a tension between the minimal language and visuals that makes for a sort of resonance. Whatever that resonance is, it is bigger than written language, me, or any intention I might entertain. These are very much about process.

Koss is a queer writer and artist with over 170 writing and art publications in journals such as Harpy Hybrid, Five Points, Up the Staircase, Bending Genres, Spillway, Rogue Agent, Spoon River Review, Cincinnati Review, San Pedro River Review, and others. They won the 2021 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest and were nominated for BOTN for poetry and fiction. Their work was also included in Best Small Fictions 2020. Find links to their work at and connect on Twitter @Koss51209969.

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