You can also cut & paste the introduction into another, if you like:
Introduction to Edition #1
Visual Poetry Collaborative Book Project
In December 2011, Cheryl Penn (South Africa) and I placed a call through the international mail-art network inviting artists and writers to contribute a chapter each for a new collaborative book project we were coordinating. Responses were enthusiastic, warm and generous: Creating this book required time, commitment, thought, and dialog. We soon were pleased to announce a second edition.
This first edition includes work by Matthew Stolte (Wisconsin, USA), Guido Vermeulen (Brussels, Belgium), Bernd Reichert (Brussels, Belgium), and Diane Keys (Illinois, USA); they have already made substantial contributions to visual poetry. We were pleased to be joined by veteran mail-artists Katerina Nikoltsou (Thessaloniki, Greece) and Richard Canard (Illinois, USA). Cleveland Wall (Pennsylvania, USA) is an accomplished poet; Victoria Barvenko (Tagenrog, Russia) is a Fluxus artist. Janine Weiss (Boudry, Switzerland), Rebecca Guyver (Suffolk, UK), and KDJ (Florida, USA) are among the artists in the book who have ventured into the visual poetry realm for the first time. This diversity of talent and perspectives has coalesced to produce a stunning and cohesive overview of the many nuances of contemporary visual poetry.
Co-coordinator Cheryl Penn – book artist, painter, visual poet – has done intensive research on artist Ray Johnson and his New York Correspondence School, which in the 1960s established the foundation of today’s thriving global mail-art community. Based on mail-art’s shared values of inclusion and collective activity, Cheryl has developed and refined a highly effective process for making artists’ books. These editions include the work of numerous contributors and bypass publishing snares related to editorial decisions, production, and distribution. The success of this process is evident in the five editions released in the previous Asemics 16 project as well as this edition.
Having a meeting place in cyberspace has been invaluable to this project. The International Union of Mail-Artists (IUOMA), founded by Ruud Janssen (Breda, Netherlands), served as an ideal headquarters. We were able to
INTRODUCTION TO VISUAL POETRY BOOK EDITION #1 - 2
participate in group discussions, coordinate mailings, and share drafts of work. Many thanks to Ruud Janssen who created and maintains this wonderful resource.
For decades, mail-art has been a conduit and safe haven for concrete poetry, visual poetry, haptic poetry, object poetry, asemic writing, and visual poetry, among others. Visual poetry (also known as vispo) might well be the most popular of these forms today, especially since it has received a fairly positive reception in many universities. Yet it is among the most difficult to explain. Given the diversity of artists in the project, we found it essential to provide an operational definition. Cheryl’s concept that each contributor’s chapter would be an homage to a favorite artist or visual poet provided thematic coherence. Their choices and methods of honoring historic figures are a fascinating aspect of the book.
At least one strain of visual poetry we see now evolved directly from concrete poetry pervasive in the 1960s and 70s (although its historical roots are far deeper). Also known as typewriter art and shape poetry, concrete poets have a materialist view of language. The words and subject of the poem determine the poem’s shape on the page, re-defining form in terms of visual image on the page rather than more traditional means such as sonnets or sestinas, to name two among thousands. Yet even traditional poetry is associated with certain configurations of text on the printed page.
The boundaries of concrete poetry were soon shattered in the 1980s and 90s, in the Age of Xerography, when poets experimented with image-textual integration, abstraction, and dense overlays as well as minimalism that fractured basic elements of the alphabet (or bypassed the whole thing by inventing new languages through asemic writing). The Digital Age, in turn, has opened more opportunities for visual poetry than ever before in photography, image-text integration and arrangement, image and text access, video, 3-D, and much more.
INTRODUCTION TO VISUAL POETRY BOOK EDITION #1 - 3
Cheryl and I left decisions about definitions of visual poetry to the artists as much as possible. In the discussions that did arise, we emphasized integration of text and image that is composed using concepts of poetics or the poetic, awareness of structure, and visual syntax. (We had a number of interesting discussions with some of the artists about organic form.) Thus, we expected work ranging from text-oriented and similar to concrete poetry to pieces presenting images, entirely devoid of writing or words.
One of the more difficult concepts to convey is the possibility of poetry completely devoid of the printed, written, or spoken word: a paradox to some and a total contradiction to others. Yet views of language and poetics as abstract structures, where a syntax of visual images is possible for example, opened the door. We are also faced with the intriguing question: Can the poetic be expressed without words and conventional forms? Our visual poets give us an affirmative reply.
The work in this edition reveals a wide range of approaches and styles; however, most of the artists chose a middle-ground, using both text and image to explore symbol relationships, build structures, and explore possibilities for expression. For me, this is one of the most important contributions of the edition and one which I hope readers will examine closely.
We have an occasion in this edition of artists, writers, and visual poets engaged together in exploring a terrain that is still largely uncharted. They look to figures that inspired them for sources, connections, and explanations. We find beauty and innovation and, above all else, an affirmation of the power and need for human expression.
De Villo Sloan
Auburn, New York, USA
April 21, 2012
Ok - WOW - a fabulous read as usual - thank you De Villo - we've been waiting - but it certainly was NOT in vain! "Integration, abstraction, dense overlays as well as minimalism which fractured basic elements of the alphabet" - such a succinct description. This was difficult intro to write I think - I found the work more diverse under the category 'vispo' than work produced during the asemic collaboration - thank you!! I - great piece of writing XX
A difficult!!! pppfft!
Thanks, Cheryl. Vispo is as slippery as wrestling a greased pig. "There is no there there." I hope this helps.
Wow, DVS--way more than worth the wait. As you say in your comment, "there is no there there," but you manage to touch on all the "theres" in your intro despite that. In approaching my chapter (for edition 2), I relied heavily on your discussions with some of us about visual poetry, in which you presented it well in all its various forms and yet left us with or gave to us a great openness from which to work: history of structures plus freedom to explore anew encourages imagination of the most intriguing kind, I think. Thank you for this great introduction.
Hopefully soon on the heels of this, a separate intro for edition #2 will be posted. I was emailingl w/Cheryl about this - the content of the two issues is very different. I think there are some separte trends that emerge in #2 that really deserve a look.
We didn't get into the depths of discussion about vispo the way we did with asemics, partially by design. With all the good that came of that, some people got really heated & there was some intolerance for what others were doing & nit-picking over definitions. Poetry seems to always bring out rancor & there was no need to start yet another Poetry War - as Tom Clark chronicled in "The Great Naropa Poetry War" & other similar spats & the New Formalists vs. Lango & on yet again.
So, wow, thanks for wading through and I'm onto #2 with you, Reed, John Bennett, Tic Tac, Skybridge, Cheryl - that turns out be an incredible lineup & really, I have to admit, a personal fav to keep along with some of the asemic books.
Many many thanks DVS! Fabulous context. I want to thank you all (again) for being so inclusive. I have felt privileged to receive each of your chapters and have learned much about the genre as a result of the project. Now that I know you all a bit more I'm not sure how I had the chutzpah to launch myself into the project in the first place, but am glad I did.
I have already downloaded and printed my intro. I have to admit deliberating over the paper to print DVS' words onto for quite some time. First I chose some 1 1/2 cm graph paper but In the end I chose a warm white 160gm cartridge.
Great - Thanks, De Villo!
Thanks KDJ, but it's a kind of therapy that helps me understand what the whole thing is about.
Getting all the chapters together & really going through them very slowly & thoughtfully at the end is an experience I start to look forward to after having been through a bunch of these projects. The work is just consistently outstanding with the vispo. The artists put a lot into it, including you. However, I'm not a binder & am still trying to figure that part out.
Oh, yes, excellent writing, Sloan! Really do appreciate all the time and effort that goes into such intros. As others have said, this adds sooooo much to the whole. I plan to print out the intro on rice paper and mount it on blue card, of course. And I so understand the problem of "binding"...especially with this series of vispo chapters. DVS, you might think about "slip cover", like I am using...a "box" really, that is on the bookshelf and friends come by and take it and can "read through" any and/or all pages they wish: