Cover of Cr ch by IUOMA member Matthew Stolte (Madison, Wisconsin, USA) and published by IUOMA member Reed Altemus (Portland, Maine, USA)
January 6, 2012 - Visual poet Matt Stolte mailed me a copy of Cr ch, his new book. I am absolutely thrilled to have this beautifully produced edition that is a longer sequence, much more comprehensive than smaller mail-art pieces I have received from him.
In the area of vispo, the network has long provided a way to share work and ideas on an international level. Cheryl Penn (South Africa) and I are currently coordinating a visual poetry collaborative book project through the IUOMA. We're very lucky Matt has agreed to contribute a chapter. Some excerpts from Cr ch will contribute to ongoing discussions about approaches to composing vispo. Here is a two-page spread from Cr ch:
Excerpt from Cr ch by Matthew Stolte.
In this book, I believe Matt's work shows visual poetry's roots in concrete poetry. The foundation of the poems is the alphabet, words, and typography. They are employed as an expressive material, divorced from conventional reading. The use of what appears to be physically made collage (a nod to action art) is not disguised, rather it is pronounced and gives the work a dynamic quality.
A high degree of distortion is used through typographical (technical) manipulation and collage. The result is the achievement of the real ground of visual poetry: a synthesis of text and image. Matt's poems are filled with numerous, subjective images that constantly shift and change with each encounter. Words and phrases appear, fade, and meld in and out of images. This dynamic quality does obscure the fact, somewhat, that the structure of Cr ch is built upon the linearity of written and printed text, often morphing into familiar grid structures. Yet the dynamism, the spontaneous action art mode, prevents Cr ch from falling into sterile formalism. Here is another excerpt:
The textuality of Cr ch is revealed on the left-hand page. The right-hand page provides an example, fairly rare in the edition, of a visual image (the bicycle) integrated with the work. From all I have seen so far, visual poets work with combinations of image and text in varying degrees. As stated in previous blogs, some vispo only uses visual images. Being primarily a writer, I tend to favor vispo that still uses text. That's one of the reasons why I am such a big fan of Matt's work.
Beyond formal and technical concerns, what might one say about what Matt is expressing as a poet? For me, his is ultimately a bleak vision. The title of the blog refers to Vis-consin. That is because the US State of Wisconsin is a huge center for visual poetry. Matt's work affirms the vision of another poet currently in Wisconsin: David Baptiste-Chirot. Chirot has extended the darker visions of Kafka, Poe and Melville into visual poetics.
Matthew Stolte is also, I believe, of that existential and ultimately brooding American sensibility. His work is far more abstract than Chirot's, however. The sudden, vivid, jarring nightmare images that coalesce in Chirot's work and make it so powerful are absent in Stolte's and are replaced by the strange, associative, half-conscious stream I mentioned previously. Both Stolte and Chirot work with the primal roots of language yet both are free of the postmodern obsession with language as an end in itself.
Cr ch is mostly composed of black, blue, and white, which narrows the artistic expressiveness provided by vispo to a minimalist field in the work. Through repetition, arrangement, and color selection, Stolte seems always to return in his work to industrial production: mechanistic and inevitably sinking into decay - a reflection of the Rust Belt environment?
Many of the forms have the quality and hardness of metals that are, paradoxically, transmuting into frightening semi-organic shapes: Yet another nightmare vision of techno-capitalism and, perhaps if his work were explored even further, an exploration of the evolution of technology, language, and humanity as they intersect. Here is a final page spread with information about the book:
Reed Altemus is a Fluxus artist whose work, including performances of event scores, is known by many in the network. I discovered his asemic work when I was doing research for the Asemics 16 Project. He has been publishing and documenting vispo for many years and has fascinating material, especially from the Age of Xerography. A visit to the Tonerworks blog is definitely worthwhile:
Matthew Stolte's blog is a must-see for vispo, especially work from Vis-consin:
Many, Many thanks Matt. The best I can do right now is to send an Elgin Shroud shred, but maybe you should consider the DKULT.