Bern Porter (1911-2004)

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Bern Porter (1911-2004)

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.

 

 

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Latest Activity: Feb 7, 2016

Excerpt

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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Comment by De Villo Sloan on April 17, 2014 at 2:38pm

Susan McAllister in Berkeley, CA made a tribute to Bern Porter.

http://iuoma-network.ning.com/profiles/blogs/bern-porter-tribute-by...

Comment by Susan McAllister on February 11, 2014 at 7:45pm
I see that today is Bern Porter's birthday. My favorite Porter quote about art is

"Let the matter crawl around on the wall."
Comment by Ruud Janssen on January 28, 2014 at 7:38am

Comment by Ruud Janssen on January 28, 2014 at 7:38am
Comment by Ruud Janssen on January 28, 2014 at 7:36am

there is lots of more info on Bern Porter.  Please share it here!

Comment by Ruud Janssen on December 14, 2013 at 6:04pm
Comment by Susan McAllister on May 31, 2013 at 7:16pm
Thanks for this group, Rudd. I was not aware of Porter until the recent post by DVS. I'm looking forward to learning about him and his work.
Comment by Ruud Janssen on May 31, 2013 at 9:23am

Biography [edit]

He was born in Maine and studied at Colby College and Brown University. He spent the last decades of his life living in Belfast, Maine.

As artist [edit]

Porter is best known for his "founds", which he has published in numerous collections including Found PoemsThe WastemakerThe Book of Do'sDieresisHere Comes Everybody's Don't Book, and Sweet End. Publishers of these works included Something Else Press, The Village Print Shop, and Tilbury House.

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.

Late in his life a series of short books and pamphlets by Porter were published by Roger Jackson Publishers in Ann Arbor, including The World of Bern, a collaboration with Louise R. Roarty.

Comment by Ruud Janssen on May 31, 2013 at 8:24am

Comment by Ruud Janssen on May 31, 2013 at 8:20am

Xexoxial Editions A 2004 Bookdust Resurrection  

Bern Porter - Wuondrushk

founds, collages, correspondence & ephemera       from Bern's      residency @ the Church of Anarchy

Version 1.0 2004, 72 pages, 8.5x11,      color laser print, $100.

I wasn't expecting to find another Bern Porter manuscript in the            bottom of a box in the closet. It's funny what you can tell about            a man by the pages he cuts out of magazines or finds in someone's      trash when they're not looking. Find in Bern what Bern found in it.       ~mIEKAL            aND

"In his 93 years on this Earth, he contributed to the invention of  television, worked on the Manhattan Project and the Saturn V rocket,  and made the acquaintances of Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Werner von  Braun; published Henry Miller, Kenneth Patchen, and Kenneth Rexroth,  among others, and knew Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin, Allen Ginsberg, and  anyone else you might name; exerted a profound influence on the  phenomenon known as mail art; traveled hundreds of thousands of miles  on cruise ships; was married three times, once happily; spent several  years in Guam; was an irascible crank; theorized a union of art and  science called Sciart; was briefly committed to a mental institution;  wrote more than 80 books, including important bibliographies of Miller  and F. Scott Fitzgerald; had a massive FBI file; lived and worked in  Rhode Island, New York, Tennessee, California, Texas, Alabama; also  Guam and Tasmania; at last settled in Belfast, Maine, where he ran for  governor, served on the Knox County Planning Commission, called his  house the Institute of Advanced Thinking, barraged the local paper with  letters, and at the end of his life subsisted largely on soup kitchens  and food gleaned from the munchie tables at art openings."       from: www.portlandphoenix.com

 

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