This exquisitely curated collection offers an enjoyable, provocative and visually absorbing read; one worth taking in large doses to fully appreciate the evocative power of Nilsen’s treatment of his theme. Poetry may be useless—ephemeral, fragile, beautiful—but its point here is well taken.PopMatters
New and formally inventive work from a New York Times Notable author
In Poetry is Useless, Anders Nilsen redefines the sketchbook format, intermingling elegant, densely detailed renderings of mythical animals, short comics drawn in ink, meditations on religion, and abstract shapes and patterns. Page after page gives way under Nilsen’s deft hatching and perfectly placed pen strokes, revealing his intellectual curiosity and wry outlook on life’s many surprises.
Stick people debate the dubious merits of economics. Immaculately stippled circles become looser and looser, as craters appear on their surface. A series of portraits capture the backs of friends’ heads. For ten or twenty pages at a time, Poetry is Useless becomes a travel diary, in which Nilsen shares anecdotes about his voyages in Europe and North America. A trip to Colombia for a comics festival is recounted in carefully drawn city streets and sketches made in cafés. Poetry is Useless reveals seven years of Nilsen’s life and musings: beginning in 2007, it covers a substantial period of his comics career to date, and includes visual reference to his works, such as Dogs & Water, Rage of Poseidon, and the New York Times Notable Book Big Questions. This expansive sketchbook-as-graphic-novel is exquisitely packaged with appendices and a foreword from Anders Nilsen himself.
Praise for Poetry is Useless
[Poetry is Useless] contains an alluring mix of dreaminess and polemics, simple and intricate, mess and neatness. Reading less-edited strata like this is almost like looking out through the artist’s eyes, and indeed Nilsen returns over and over to the idea of stepping inside someone else’s skin.Paste
Poetry is Useless is a remarkable and moving book in which Nilsen appears to hold little back. Many of the pages feature strike-outs, words and sometimes entire dialogue balloons deleted, as if process were more important than a sense of finished work...Much of Poetry is Useless appears random: a view through a window, a bulldog seen in a coffee shop.Los Angeles Times
Artistically, Poetry is Useless offers wonderful examples of Nilsen’s pointillist, detailed style...but he’s just as happy roughing out vaguely human black silhouettes to provide mouthpieces for his dark-night-of-the-soul comedy routines. The sketchbook format means Poetry is Useless jumps around between ideas and found images, imaginary shapes and intricate observations of the back of some man’s head, but the whole accumulates – coagulates, if you prefer – into something really rather powerful.Herald Scotland
Nilsen’s assiduous, perfect drawings and distanced, inquisitive writing take as their subject the trivial and commonplace, rendering what seems to be useless strange, endearing and curiously new.The Globe and Mail
Nilsen has drawing chops for days, and that, combined with his humor, which here tends toward skewed hybrid clichés and aphorisms, makes this accomplished and playful to the max.Booklist, Starred Review
Using seven years’ worth of sketches, philosophical musings, and personal anecdotes, Nilsen creates a piece of art that celebrates creative spontaneity and the small details that make life worth living, forcing his audience to look at the world a little differently after finishing the book...There may not be any intended meaning behind the collected content of Poetry Is Useless, but it’s a work of immense value for those interested in the creative process of a remarkably talented cartoonist.AV Club