Bern Porter's underground reputation as an artist-writer-philosopher-scientist is well established among visual artists and writers, and his philosophy of dissent is respected. Dick Higgins, the avant-garde writer and publisher/editor of the Something Else Press, was inspired to call Porter the Charles Ives of American letters'. Recognizing Porter as one of the earliest and most prolific practitioners of Found Poetry', Peter Frank (in his book on Something Else Press) has written: "Porter is to the poem what [Marcel] Duchamp was to the art object, a debunker of handiwork fetishism and exemplary artist-as-intercessor between phenomenon and receptor. He rejects the typical artist's role of semi-divine creator. Porter's eye never tires of seeking accidental, unconventional literature in odd pages of textbooks, far corners of advertisements, the verbiage of greeting cards and repair manuals, ad infinitum."
Porter's career is complex and filled with contradictions. He was born in 1911, in Porter Settlement, Maine. All his life Porter had a love for literature, the visual arts and poetry in particular. As a child he created countless scrapbooks filled with collaged cut-outs of texts and images from newspapers. This process, used in the early scrapbooks, would later be developed into his technique of visual collaged poetry that he refers to as "Founds". As a pioneer author of artists, books, experiments in poetry, typography, and collage Porter published his first artist book in 1941. And since then has authored dozens of books and poetry broadsides as well as created paintings, sculpture, prints, and experimented with photography (included photograms in the early 1940s). He was also an early experimenter with alternative publishing, mail art, and performance poetry.
Latest Activity: Feb 7, 2016
In order to fully appreciate the curious collages that Porter called “founds,” we need to first distinguish Porter’s compositions from the found poetry that was popular in the late 60s and early 70s. While Porter’s founds and the more mainstream found poetry that predominantly relied upon the lineation of preexisting prose (“redeemed prose” in the words of the Canadian John Robert Colombo) all came out of a vigorous cultural matrix influenced by pop art, Andy Warhol, concrete poetry and Marshall McLuhan (“something was in the air,” says David Byrne’s foreword), Porter’s pieces are far less recognizably poetic and challenge the reader’s perceptual and cognitive capacities with an obdurate yet beautiful opacity. We can, for example, consider a few sections from Richard O’Connell’s “Brazilian Happenings,” which was published in a 1966 issue of The New Yorker, though a piece from Ronald Gross’ Pop Poems (Simon and Schuster,1967) could have sufficed as well:
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