Pierre Jardin marks Earth Day with a celebratory petriverse. Pierre’s petriverse makes a simple proclamation: “THE EARTH ROCKS!” is a reminder that we live on a beautiful planet, well-suited to our needs and life, and that we should appreciate it. It’s like, dude, think about it, the earth, like, totally rocks.
This basic message takes on additional life as a petriverse (poem written with stones), becoming a self-reflexive riff where the rockingness of rocks is marked by the word rocks being written in red stones (plus a brown speckled rock resembling some sort of petrified egg, the one aberrant rock designed to draw the eye to the color of rocks around it). The fact that rocks rock is a redundant correlative of the fact that the earth rocks—rocks are an essential aspect of the earth. In fact, the petriverse is comprised of two mini-verses, THE EARTH and ROCKS!, which in juxtaposition to one another generate resonant connotations.
The petriverse is a visual poem, meaning it uses letters as elements in a spatial field resembling a canvas more than a page with lines. The earth-toned color of the a-r-t rocks in EARTH make the word ART become a separate part within the whole word, suggesting different meanings (the earth is itself aesthetically pleasing; it could be seen as a work art; the word in the petriverse is a transformation of earth into art, the petriverse is an earthwork). The placement of T-H-E directly above A-R-T in earth, with the colors echoing one another, could be taken as a boastful proclamation: ‘the art rocks, dude, it rocks steady, in tune with the earth.’
In Johnson’s ingenious concrete poem, the word “earth” becomes material that builds a sort of mound, or by accretion layers sediment into a block, turning letters into dirt or earth. Through simple antonoclasis, the repetition of identical signifiers, Johnson initiates a combinatoric dynamic that unlocks all the words contained in the letters making up earth: ear, hear, heart, hearth, art; plus basic articles, a and the. As Devin Johnston observes, “the vectors between hearth, earth, heart, ear, hear, and art imply a relation between perception and cosmology, the self and the universe” (17).
Pierre’s petriverse induces simple associative meanings by comparison to Johnson’s work, but by sampling it, Pierre pays tribute to one of the great eco-poets and precursors of petriverse. As the sun sets on Earth Day, Monsieur Jardin thinks to himself, Ronald Johnson rocks!