Cover Photo: There are two comic panels. The one on left is the back of cartoon version of Andrew Lorenzi's head looking up at crows flying overhead. It is drawn in surreal colors so the crows are blue and the sky is light pink. The second frame is from above, looking down at Lorenzi and his car in between the crows feathers. The ground below Andrew is lavender and his looks like his frowning. Written across the two frames is "AAAAAAAAAAA" in uneven letters to signify the crows' calls.
Art by Andrew Lorenzi

The Poetry of Comics: An Interview with Cartoonist Andrew Lorenzi

“Both poetry and comics excel at taking ineffable, hard-to-articulate times in life and making them into something solid.”

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

non-linear time, symbolic representation, and the structure of the page. In The Poetry of Comics, I speak with artists invested in using this shared machinery to explore the poetic possibilities of comics.

For the first installment of this series, I interviewed cartoonist Andrew Lorenzi. Multo, Lorenzis debut book of autobiographical comics, resists easy categorization. Using paint, pencil, and embroidery, Lorenzi transports us to familiar scenes: waking up alone, rushing to work, long car rides as a child, and walking through your hometown as an adult. Against these everyday backdrops, he ruminates on themes ranging from sleep paralysis to Filipino folklore. Lorenzis vivid language and surreal colors restore the luster of these mundane moments, urging readers to recognize the splendor and significance of our daily rhythms.

In addition to Multo, Lorenzi and I talked about the affinities between his comics and poetry, sneaking a notebook into your day job, and his new project, Pedestrian, which Im eagerly awaiting!

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

The cover of Lorenzi's book Multo. On the cover, cartoon Lorenzi is lying in bed looking straight up. Outside is a cityscape and the sky is deep purple. Above Lorenzi hovers the word "MULTO" in a deep blue cloud. It's very dream-like.
Cover of Multo [multo is the Tagalog word for ghost]

Eliza Harris: I read as a series of poems and vignettes that capture memories, sensations, and realizations from your life. Do you see poetry as an element of your comics? How do you define your work?

PeanutsMulto

An embroidered comic on tan fabric. The lines are colorful and sparse. In the top frame Andrew is waking up and in the bottom two he is looking out a window. The text reads "I wake to sounds from the kitchen / Lauren has gone to work / I spend another morning alone."
"December Morning" from Multo

EH: I love how you connect the sparseness of poetry and comics. It makes me think about how gutters [the spaces between comic panels] operate similarly to line breaks in poetry. With both, we’re meant to read into that gap.

Could you tell me more about learning to read from comics?

Scooby DooPeople don’t have black outlines around them

EH: Comics are so often a medium for autobiographical stories. Do you think there is an element of comics that particularly lends itself to personal narrative? I’m especially interested in this question within the context of your approach to representing your life as a collection of everyday experiences rather than a linear story.

In the first few panels, a child version of Andrew asks his mom “will you tell me about the Aswang?” She says “The Aswang? Again, Andrew” and he responds “Please, mom?”  The rest of this comic is painted in bright red and black. It shows a dog climbing into a whole and emerging as a skeleton-like human figure with wings. The text reads “The Aswang changes its shape. Sometimes it take the form of a dog. It sleeps during the day in the sand underground. At night, it awakes.”
Excerpt of "Churches" from Multo

EH: I want to get back to your book. Could you talk a bit about how you came to the title , which is the Tagalog word for ?

Multo

Multo

Multomultiple

EH: Maybe it was rereading after the isolation of this past year, but I felt like loneliness was a ghost haunting its pages. You capture moments many of us can relate to, from lying awake at night to waking up and realizing your partner has already left for work. What draws you to these scenes of solitude?

MultoMulto

My interest always lies in comics that distill the world into quieter moments, fragmentary moments.

EH: Another haunting presence in is the menacing figure that appears during your sleep paralysis. It’s difficult enough to remember dreams, let alone describe them. How were you able to capture the experience of sleep paralysis in a comic?

MultoI have to engage with this. I have to understand what this is if I’m going to live with it

Multo

An excerpt of Lorenzi's comic about his sleep paralysis. Across 6 panels Lorenzi is his bed in the dark surrounded by grey static. In the last 3 panels he raises his hands up into the stack and it moves around his fingers. The comic is painted in greytone on tan paper. The words read “Shapes, moving like smoke / dissolving into darkness / they looked so real / but they were illusions”
Excerpt of "Hypnopompia" from Multo

EH: Part of what makes so striking is your use of nontraditional comic mediums like paint and embroidery. What does your artistic process involve? What do you think about when bringing text and image together?

This is an excerpt of a silent comic by Lorenzi. It is painted dark blue on white paper. In the first eight frames Lorenzi is skateboarding down a sidewalk. It appears to be night because there is a bright streetlight shining down on him. The light travels across multiple panels and is represented by just the white of the paper. in the final row of comic panels, Lorenzi arrives home and sees his partner, Lauren, in the doorway waiting for him. In the final from they are hugging.
Excerpt of "Flood World" from Multo

EH: There is a beautiful silent comic at the center of of you skateboarding to and from work. I love this sequence because commuting can be such a significant part of our day, in the time it takes up and all that can play out internally during it. I was excited to learn your current project, , is a “meditation on travel, of being separated from others within metal machines, and the places (real and figurative) we go when traveling on long, dark roads at night.” Can you tell me more about this project? What drew you to it, and what are your plans for it?

Multo

Pedestrian

Pedestrian

This is the full comic the header image of the interview is an excerpt of. In the full version "Morning Murder" is written across the top and Lorenzi is cleaning his windshield. "AAAAAAAA" is written in the second panel to represent the crows' calls, before he looks up and sees the crows above him. Its an eerie comic, but the colors are bright and playful.
"Morning Murder" from the Pedestrian  series

EH: Speaking of the joys of commuting, many artists have day jobs in order to pursue their creative careers. What jobs have you had outside of your creative work, and how have you balanced them with the time, motivation, and space needed to make art?

EH: One last question: Who, artists or otherwise, have particularly influenced your work? Are there other people who work at the intersection of poetry and comics you’d recommend for readers interested in this genre?

Red Colored ElegyLate BloomerDirty Plotte: The Complete Julie DoucetMy Entire High School Sinking into the SeaCryptozoo

Love and Rockets

Eliza Harris is an editorial assistant for Catapult, Social Media Manager + Assistant Poetry Editor for DIAGRAM, and Director of Communications for The Speakeasy Project. She grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and is now based in Seattle, Washington. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @elizaeharris.