Monday, November 9, 2015

Tip of the Knife, Issue 22

I was working on a series of biblical color plates and had just finished ‘David and Bathsheba’.  David fell in love with her, so he sent her husband to die in battle, then he married her himself.  In this illustration, Bathsheba bathes on the roof while David watches from the domed tower at top right .

Just as David watches Bathsheba, our contributors watch their poets of choice from their own domed towers, becoming enamored of what is beautiful in ourselves and in others.  



Crag Hill Reviewing ?
Geof Huth Reviewing Troy Lloyd
Nico Vassilakis Reviewing Anneke Baeten
Bill DiMichele Reviewing Marilyn R. Rosenberg
Bobbi Lurie Reviewing Mark Young
Joel Chace Reviewing Hank Lazer
Karl Kempton Reviewing Before Concrete From Early 1900s

Crag Hill Reviewing ?

I am thinking about a visual poem I have not yet seen composed by a visual poet I have not yet met and may never meet.

I am thinking about a visual poem that may never be composed.

I am thinking about a visual poem I will not see in my lifetime.

The visual poem has tones and colors not yet invented arrayed in forms—lines, shades, shapes—not yet created.

The visual poem has no colors, no forms, because those are no longer necessary in our two-, three-, or four- dimensional worlds.

The visual poem can be read from all directions at once, inside and outside, inside out, near and far.

The visual poem, a blank slate, cannot be read from any direction.

The visual poem can be now and future and past and designations of time our linear species cannot yet fathom.

The visual poem can be no time at all.

I am seeing this visual poem as I have never seen a poem before.

This visual poem grows in eyes I do not yet possess.

This visual poem is the seeing that is the poem.

This visual poem does not see.

I reach out to the visual poem with arms and hands and fingers I did not know I could wield.

This visual poem in arms and hands and fingers is at first awkward then embracing.

I push this visual poem away as it pushes me away.

I breathe it in but it does not want to be air.

I taste it yet it moves and revolves in spaces without tongues—in spaces with no need for tongues.

When I first encountered this visual poem I shuddered.

When I encountered it again I unshuttered my obsolescence, my arrogance, my reticence.

I built a new wall of windows.

I tore down the wall of the poem.

This visual poem, I believe, will create the language to render coherent all languages heretofore incoherent.

This visual poem will give voice to silence.

I can believe in this visual poem.

I can have faith in it though I will die before it implodes into existence for others.

This is the genesis, the exodus, the revelation.

This is the palm to palm, the song the sun sang before it knew it would be sung.

This is the visual poem.

Geof Huth Reviewing Troy Lloyd

Troy Lloyd Unalloyed

Troy Lloyd, blankit (endless ribbon) (2009-04-12)

In the end, Troy Lloyd may be merely a meteor shower, yet the most vibrant we have ever seen, remarkably diverse sprays of light against the inert reality of atmospheric friction. He didn’t produce and present work for that many years, but in the work he presented there was everything: a mind constantly in motion, an eye always seeing and often seeing what we missed right before us, a hand in a perpetual state of making, an imagination always searching.

He appeared to be inspired by everything mixed, myriad, messy, and beautiful, and he made work of all kinds along these lines. Poetry (visual and otherwise), drawings, photographs, comics, painting, constructions, thoughts—he accumulated and promulgated it all. And, although he was a young man of Georgia, he made things in his own style. His signature was graceful, effortless disorder, but not quite disorder—something closer to the presentation of living in the real world. He repeated the shapes of the world, with its messiness and dirtiness, but through the two bright lenses of his eyes. We can see the beauty in things by seeing them with his eyes, by perceiving them as made by his hands.

His means and methods were so various that I sometimes could not tell how they were made. Was that asemic text made of shadow or of ink on cloth or both? I might ask myself. And he made work so effortlessly within forms that it was impossible to determine, for sure, what he meant the work to be. Was it an abstract comic or and asemic visual poem? Did he draw all those careful swooping lines by hand or did he use a computer?

And, yet, I believe he rarely used a computer. Few pieces showed signs of that possibility, and he engaged with the materiality of the earth, even when using machines to make. His hands, in their infinite malleability, intervened against the substances of the planet to force them into miraculous structures of shape and meaning and seeing. All of these were somehow organic, as if they had always been part of the world, as if they were living structures of thought that would replicate their often already replicating internal supporting infrastructures.

Mania engages the mind and the hand in Troy’s work (and also in his life for all I know—and I say this realizing he was one of the gentlest people I’ve ever in my life met).  He created at what seemed like great speed, and much of his handwork was a perfected scrawl. Even when attaching metal to metal to make a (probably temporary) sculpture, he could embody the piece with a sense of scrawledness. Or maybe it is all a sign of his sprawlingness. His work seemed to sprawl across every inch of any space it inhabited.

Or maybe I was tricked by the presentation of most of his work, which most frequently appeared on his blog, wrd.wthiin.woord, and only in tiny photographs that sometimes did not contain the entire work—or those fragments represented the true work. His camera was always more an instrument of creation than one of simple capture. Lighting, focus, framing were always issues at hand, things that changed, not a simple flat means of documenting. In this way, we were forced to see his work by looking into the end of his own telescope. Only then, could we see the huge size and detail of the tiny things before us but still so far away.

He remade the earth, collaged it back into imagination. He gave the eye the pure gift of confusion. He reused text and image. He made text and image. He lived in a copy culture, where his mind and hand were as much the copy machine as the original text. He made poems in toilet bowls, poems with the typewriter as the machine making and the binding holding the poem, poems that were collages, sculptures, scrawls. A typed poem of his could become a sculpture via photograph.

He made the world alive.

And then he disappeared into his real life, where he may still be making. And making us wait.

Nico Vassilakis Reviewing Anneke Baeten

Anneke Baeten's Code for Interpretation

Unwritten markings rest on an unsaid surface. What to make of this asemic writing? 

Newly scribed documents resist an old foe – the predictable. Whatever it takes to leave behind behind. Meaning ain't nothing but a thing.

There is hybrid in the air. Applying another to another. A thing won't last unless it attaches to the next.

I wrote this once - I think asemic writing/poetry is the ratcheted up magnification of parts of letters, the parts that no longer resemble and cannot be traced back to the original and so have determined to make a go of it on their own. It will be interesting to see where all the threads arrive.

Hasn't taken long for a result to materialize.

Anneke is doing. She is mixing facets and excavating. Future aboriginal thrusts into the void. To write ahead of legible thinking.

She grabs at paint and she photographs how asemic writings merge with it. The black and white has attitude, makes it pointed. There's a seriousness in her work.

Here is a possible rosetta stoneage object. Certain texts, un-meaninged descriptives, assigned to specific brush strokes. Symbols, the undertaker presents, revisit how language transfers the audible to visual signage.

As each painted brush stroke is unique...

She says she's “attempting a code for interpretation.”

For each difference there is an adjoining asemic representation.

Creating an image using just these 24 brush strokes should produce an asemic translation. And conversely, a surface holding these 24 asemic stanzas, phrases and punctuations should be translatable visually.

This piece is from the ongoing series, “Translating Paint”.

Anneke wields a sharp eye that steadies her compositions. Her balance is sure. The series itself, “Translating Paint”, shows her ability to keep a photographer's sensibilities and a painterly hand alongside her visible language inclinations.

A key, a genome, a periodic table showing how paint translates into writing and how writing is visual and gets traced into even further visuals and shifts into newly altered meaning.

This piece, and its early building blocks, steers you to a future alphabet, near ready and able to propel you through thought and a capability to document experience.

She further explains, “It's all about interpreting the paint, and finishing their sentences, showing their potential, their unspoken power or their assumed softness and how, when they speak, they can surprise as sometimes they could be speaking the opposite.”

This piece is the first fold of a dictionary waiting to bloom.

To explore the series, feel free to click the link -

Bill DiMichele Reviewing Marilyn R. Rosenberg

Anonymous Card Catalog 

ACC 109-126 1999, smaller image

ACC verso 156-144 1999 smaller

According to Greek mythology, Pandora (meaning ‘all giving’) was the first woman, created by Hephestus as Zeus’ gift for Epimetheus. Pandora’s curiosity got the better of her, and when she opened the box all the ills flew out to plague the world.  However, there was one more item in the box: ‘elpis’ (hope).

Now, in light of all this, let’s look at Marilyn R. Rosenberg’s box: frightening, inviting, amazing, gorgeous.  It also is ‘all giving’.  The outside is adorned with letters and words from forbidden languages, with indecipherable glyphs as beautiful as any visual poetry I’ve ever seen. Marilyn’s box has a purple/black glaze, a magical sheen making it seem otherworldly.  And compelling.

The difference between Pandora and Marilyn is that Marilyn is able, through her creative power/skill, to control what her box does, what goes in it, and what comes out of it.  Like a great adept, she summons a mythological act, transcending and transmuting it, creating a supernova of illumination that appears as the 200 cards the box contains.  The front sides of her cards are a wide open take on visual poetry, on her amazing display of connections and contrasts, on the fractured sentences spread out through the cards.  There are rhyming images,  pockets of black and orange, text commenting in exotic ways and a number of overarching schemes.  On the back, Rosenberg pays homage to the women she admires.  One example is the work of Amy Lowell:

“The perfume of your souls is vague and suffering

With the pungency of sealed spice jars.”

The interesting and seemingly coincidental point here is that in Greek, sometimes ‘box’ is translated as ‘jar’ (pithos).

The box itself is fascinating for another completely different reason. Maybe this is just me but it looks like it opens up into the backdrop for a Greek play, characters/cards encompassing hopes and fears, strength and hubris.  Her multimedia approach at first feels like a shotgun blast, but as the smoke clears, process begins to make itself known like planets forming from stardust, dazzling to the eye.  I call Marilyn a postmodern Pandora because she has superseded the impulses of her ancient counterpart as she becomes conscious of herself, her role and the world.  And we totally don’t need any more ills.  We need ‘elpis’. Help us out Marilyn!

Women have come far from passive roles, from holding out the martini to their husbands after work, from wearing pearls while vacuuming the living room, from playing the ‘duh’ role of dumb blonde in second rate television shows.  Today women choose their futures in government, science or the arts. Pandora, in her weakness, had no control.  Marilyn’s work is strong, bold, eye opening and created from inspiration and control.

There is one more Greek word about Marilyn R. Rosenberg I’m going to drop on you:

Eunola! (beautiful thinking) 

Bobbi Lurie Reviewing Mark Young

Envelope Artifact

“Art Is The Gap”

I looked up and saw a man who looked exactly like Marcel Duchamp.

I didnt want to stare at him so I pointed to the word artifact on the strange chessboard he was holding.

“The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chess-board, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem … “
“Oh,” I said, “and w-what d-did you mean when you said “a-art is the gap”?
What art is, in reality, in this missing link, not the links which exist. Its not what you see that is art; art is the gap.

I-i-is there a gap with chess?

the milieu of chess players is far more sympathetic than that of artists. These people are completely cloudy the way the artist is supposed to be, and isnt, in general. Madmen …”

I-I d-dont understand, I said.

“…  I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.

What do you mean?

“What am I? Do I know? I am a man: quite simply, a ‘breather.’"

“You are a breather …. ” I tried to sense the meaning of his words.

He balanced the chessboard on his hip and pointed to the word once.

We were immersed in shimmering space.

Since a three-dimensional object casts a two-dimensional shadow, we should be able to imagine the unknown four-dimensional object whose shadow we are.

Im confused, I said, staring into his gray face.

In my life chess and art stand at opposite poles, but do not be deceived. Chess is not merely a mechanical function. It is plastic, so to speak. Each time I make a movement of the pawns on the board, I create a new form, a new pattern, and in this way I am satisfied by the always changing contour.

I pointed at the word perhaps on the chessboard.

as soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn goodI use it because I have to, but I dont put any trust in it. We never understand each other.” 

Perhaps he was right. Language has always been problematic for me.

I hope this man is real. I need a friend like him.

I pointed to the words Thing of beauty.

Chess has all the beauty of art and much more.

He pulled a cloth handkerchief out of his pocket, wiped his face, took a few deep breaths, then continued his soliloquy. “The hardest was when I told myself ‘Marcel no more painting, go get a job. I looked for a job in order to get enough time to paint “for myself.”

He called himself Marcel.

“W-w-what d-d-d-id you do?”

“I got a job as a librarian in Paris in the Bibliotheque St Genevieve,” he said. “It was a wonderful job because I had so many hours to myself. There are two kinds of artist: the artist that deals with society, is integrated into society; and the other artist, the completely freelance artist, who has no obligations…I didnt want to depend upon my painting for a living.”

This man who looked so much like Marcel Duchamp, who called himself Marcel, was leaning against The Remainders Table of the last bookstore standing in my city. I wanted to take out my cell phone and snap a picture but I feared he would vanish. 

People get the wrong idea about my not painting, said Duchamp. Its true and its not true at the same time. But I did not take a vow. Thats all nonsenseYes a myth. Im ready to paint if I have an idea. But its the idea that counts.

I took a deep breath and looked into Marcels face. I look at myself from above," he said, "I see every action like a chess move an endgame.

I had no words to say.

If you wish, said Marcel, my art would be that of living: each second, each breath is a work which is inscribed nowhere, which is neither visual nor cerebral.

He pulled a cigar out of his pocket; it was lit. 

If he could conceal light from the lit, if he could smoke, he had to be real … 

Marcel puffed on his cigar, blowing smoke in my face.

I pointed to the word recluse.

Its very important for me not to be engaged with any group. I want to be free, I want to be free from myself, almost.

I felt an urge to hug him; I didnt.

And, he added, I have never felt a pressing need to express myself morning, noon and night.

I looked down at my hands. 

Instead of spending my life creating works of art in the form of paintings or sculptures, he said. I now believe that you can quite readily treat your life, the way you breathe, act, interact with other people, as a picture, a tableau vivant or a film scene, so to speak. These are my conclusions now: I never set out to do this when I was 20 or 15, but I realize, after many years, that this was fundamentally what I was aiming to do.

He blew smoke rings in the air.

This reverie was interrupted by a cashier. You cant do that! Stop! Thats illegal!! Smoking is not allowed here!!!!

B-b-b-ut h-h-h-h-hes M-M-M-M-ar-c-c-c-el Du-du-du-, I was stuttering again, after years of being able to pretend. The stuttering was choking me; I tried to grab hold of The Remainders Table.

A woman with long gray hair put her arms around me and lead me to a chair. “Breathe deep, breathe deep, she said.

I wished Marcel Duchamp had come to my rescue instead of her why didnt he? the old woman handed me a bottle of water. Drink this, she said.

N-n-n-o no w-w-w-w-a-a-a-ater, I said, choking on my words.

When I finally caught my breath, I could not find Marcel.

Marcel Duchamp! Marcel Duchamp! Please dont leave me!! Please dont.

All this twaddle  are pieces of a chess game called language.

I heard his voice but could not see his face.

And they are amusing only if one does not preoccupy oneself with 'winning or losing this game of chess.” 

Those were the last words I heard him say.

Joel Chace Reviewing Hank Lazer



Joel:  Hank, congratulations on the achievement of your N 18 (Complete), published in 2012 by Singing Horse Press.   I'd like to focus on two of those hand-written, "shape poems," as you call them.  The first of those pieces is the sixth page of this notebook.  In the collection's preface, you write about your method of "seeing" the page – “the shape of the writing" – before you begin composing.  So, for this sixth page, did you envision the shape of the Pleiades (which you reference in the poem) before writing? 

Hank:  First, thanks, Joel, for initiating this conversation.  Honestly, Joel, it will be difficult to remember exactly what I was thinking and envisioning when I wrote any specific page in N18, since the writing was done five years ago.  But the page that you’ve selected does provoke a range of observations.  Yes, the Pleaides figure into this page of writing, but no, I’m sure that I did not envision the Pleaides before I wrote.  (If you look at the Pleaides, you’ll see what I mean: they are somewhat blurry, and, quite wonderfully, they are seen most clearly [by the naked eye], or at least more clearly, by not looking directly at them.  You will actually see more by looking slightly away from them.)

A major formal commitment in the notebooks generally and in N18 was to be sure that each page differed considerably in appearance from the prior page.  For this particular page, I probably began by seeing an image that is a mixed suggestion: somewhat like the shapes we make with a hand for a shadow figure; and this figure is somewhat suggestive of rabbit ears (perhaps the rabbit shape being one of the first that children learn to make for shadow figures). 

But what still holds my interest with this particular page is that I was already struggling with the awareness that this shape writing creates an almost magnetic attraction (for the reader) to the shape or visual image of the page.  Of course, these pages are (for me, anyway) still “poems,” that is, locations for highly specific, compressed language.  My fears, expectations, and observations were that these pages in the notebooks would actually obscure or draw attention away from the words themselves by virtue of being shaped.  That’s why this page – a kind of meta-page or meta-thinking on how to read these pages – constitutes a kind of warning or directive or caution against becoming too fixated on the visual nature of the page.  A sort of semi-didactic (though also somewhat humorously so, because, after all, what the hell did I expect would happen when writing in shapes?!) address to the reader.  The advice is akin to how best to look at the Pleaides.  Find a way to look slightly off to the side.

Joel:  The page’s meta-meaning is definitely one element that made me want to focus on this piece for our discussion.  So I appreciate your bringing that up.  And you saved me a question by alluding to the shadow, which strikes me as entirely appropriate and brilliant, given the role your hand plays in the creation of these poems.

Now, let’s shift to the eighteenth page and a piece that is more complex, visually.  Page six is, arguably, one continuous shape.  But I can make the case that page eighteen is a combination of six or seven separate component shapes. 

Do you remember where your hand/eyes/mind began, literally, on this page, and why that might have happened?

Hank: Unfortunately, I can’t really remember (after 5+ years) exactly how the poem/page began.  Probably it began with the writing at the top of the page, with some foreseen sense of the circle atop the column (which to my mind, is much like a golf ball on a tee), as well as some desire to have some of the writing take place upside down or in other directions.

I agree with your sense that this page consists of multiple components – voices, shapes, registers of language.  Thus, there would be many ways for such a page to be performed/read out loud.  My preference would be for multiple voices to be involved, with some phrases or sections being voiced simultaneously.  (One example of this multiple voice approach is posted in the current issue of Drunken Boat – three soundings, making use of nine different voices, of N27P51: )

As I return now to N18P20 (which is page 28 in the Singing Horse Press publication), I enjoy the range of different languages.  I’m a golfer, and 8/29 would be during the time of year when I would be playing quite a bit, and the phrase “striping it” is golf-slang (for hitting the ball hard, for nailing it), which probably is how the central image – two quotations from Levinas’ Otherwise Than Being – becomes a ball on a tee, which admittedly is an odd way to tee up metaphysics…  My own writing on this page strikes me as deliberately flat.  The brief narrative – totally true – about my conversation with my Grandma Fanya when I learned I would be moving to Alabama is for me the segment that re-opens the page for me.  It gives me a specific context for what amounts to a somewhat scattered meditation on time and its hazy role in the making of a self.  Another way to hear the page is as a collision of different senses of time.

And of course the page itself, with its heavy reliance on quotation, is indeed “clothed with purely borrowed being.”

Karl Kempton Reviewing Before Concrete From Early 1900s

Academia link to complete PDF, which includes reference links to bibliography:

            Before concrete poetry as a movement was founded separately on three occasions 60 years ago, a segment of the new modern artists and poets initiated an expansion into visual text art 110 years ago exploring the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets for their acoustic and visual characteristics. Previous to these moments, other individuals have been suggested as forerunners. Some point to Stephane Mallarme’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard (A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance) published in 1897. Others, including an English concrete poetry anthology (being the exception to the concrete exclusiveness rule) and visual poetry anthologists, point further back to the 1865 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll) shaped poem in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Others, such as myself, point further back to 1788 when William Blake began his hand-scripted colored etchings of poems and illuminated books as forecaster of the many collaborations of handwritten and illuminated lithographically produced books by Russian Futurist visual poets and word painters by 125 years. During the period between the early 1900s onward into the 1920s, several new types of visual text art were coined or first expressed by form. Among these and their associated movements, three by Americans, are Poeme Simultané (Barzun), Orphism (Barzun), Wordless Poem (Morgenstern), Parole in Libertá (Marinetti), Psychotype/Cubist Portraiture (Zayas), Word Portrait (Hartley), Ideogramme (Italian Futurists), Word Painting (Carra), Calligramme (Huidobro), Kalogramas (Palomar), Neo-primitivism (Russian avant-garde), Zaum (Burliuk [credited by Kruchenykh]), Suprematist (Malevich), Machine Portraiture (Picabia), Dada, Surreal Poem, Precisionism, and Poster Portrait (Demuth).
            The American visual poem was influenced, but only partially, by Apollinaire’s ideogrammes in 1915. This event was forgotten or disappeared. While his work was reintroduced decades later in the context of concrete poetry, a fertile environment had been prepared in America before his work arrived in print. Alfred Stieglitz and his circle of writers, poets, artists, sculptors and photographers were attempting to form a nativistic American modern art vision at Stieglitz’s insistence, or quoting William Carlos Williams’ summation of this clarion call, a member of the circle, “in the American grain.” Stieglitz was in the forefront pushing and pulling the photograph into the field of modern art. His Camera Work magazine spanned the years 1903 to 1917. The period of his gallery Photo-Secession/291 Gallery was 1905 to 1908/1908 to 1917. Members and associates of his circle included Anne Brigman, Charles Caffin, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Waldo Frank, Marsden Hartley, Gertrude Käsebier, John Barrett Kerfoot, Mina Loy, John Marin, Alfred Maurer, Agnes Meyer, Georgia O'Keeffe, Francis Picabia, Katharine Nash Rhoades, Paul Rosenfeld, Pamela Colman Smith,[i] Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Abraham Walkowitz, Max Weber, William Carlos Williams and Marius de Zayas. The number of individuals associated with the circle expand when including contributors to Camera Work, magazine 291, in which various visual text art types were published, and exhibitors in his gallery. Gertrude Stein was helpful to him and members of his circle during their trips or prolonged stays in Europe, for example. The young E E Cummings was aware of the group and publications; later, he became a good friend of Stuart Davis who became the pop of Pop Art.
            Stieglitz began publishing modern art works in his magazine and exhibiting modern art in his gallery in 1907. Here is a small sample of written material.[ii] Max Weber, perhaps the pinnacle of American cubism, wrote an article in 1910 for Camera Work 31, "The Fourth Dimension from a Plastic Point of View." The article spread four dimensional ideas into the New York avant-garde scene and beyond to the wider readership.[iii] Max Weber acted at times on behalf of Stiegliz in Paris shepherding modern art paintings to him, including Rousseau (Weber was responsible of his first American exhibit, at 291) and Picasso, among others.[iv] Excerpts from Kandinsky’s 1911 book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, appeared in issue 39 due to Marsden Hartley move to Germany, his friendship with Kandinsky, and his interest in mysticism. Camera Work, issue 39 Special, August 1912, published Gertrude Stein’s cubist word portraits of Picasso and Matisse, her first appearance in an American magazine. American visual text art works were first exhibited and published by him. Psychotypes by Zaya, exhibited at 291 in 1913, were published in issue 46. Between 1915 and 1916 in ten issues of 291 under the editorial leadership of Zayas, ideogrammes, calligrammes, psychotype and machine portraitures, visual poems and a forerunner of concrete poetry were published. The magazines Camera Work and 291 and 291 gallery were, if not the American avant-garde focal point, certainly the most important to the field of modern visual text art. Copies of its issues were read by most of the American avant-garde and its admirers. Copies of 291 were also part of the American avant-garde reading and viewing materials.
            Marius de Zayas came with his family to America because of the Mexican civil war in 1907. An artist and caricaturist of great skill, Stieglitz gave Zayas his first one man exhibition in 1909 after establishing his American caricaturist reputation.[v] Zayas, as a representative of the gallery, traveled twice to Europe, late 1910 through early 1911 and 1914, where he met and became friends with numerous avant-garde writers and artists. He was the first American to publish an in-depth article on Picasso and was instrumental in Picasso’s first American exhibit (291 Gallery). From his exposure to cubism and its deeper theories directly expressed to him in Spanish by Picasso, he invented a cubist abstract caricature expression, Psychotypes. He rendered individuals as geometrical, ideogrammatic or pictogramic forms with mathematical symbols or formulas representing the trajectory of intelligence and character of the individual caricatured. Nine of these works were exhibited at 291 Gallery in April 1913. This new style influenced Picabia, other pre-dada artists and a few painters of the circle who would move along their own pathways in symbolic portraiture. See the Appendix for links. Stieglitz played a major role, though behind the scenes, in the famous 1913 Armory exhibition introducing modern art to Americans. He had no interest in participating in the modern art commercialization zoo he saw on the horizon.
            During his 1914 European trip, Zayas met Apollinaire. They became immediate friends and colleagues. Apollinaire, born in Italy, fluent in French and Italian, moved to France at 18. He eventually became a central figure among the European avant-garde as a writer, critique and poet. Several years of working closely with avant-garde friends, acquaintances, exposure to avant-garde theories and writing and promoting avant-garde painting, literature and movements in newspapers, magazines and books provided him a unique access and opportunity to move his poetics into the same arena. Apollinaire was among the first who successfully promoted Cubism and other avant-garde expressions and gained wide notoriety as a result.
            The last two months of 1912, Apollinaire lived with Robert and Sonia Delaunay. Sonia Delaunay (Russian immigrant) was collaborating with Blaise Cendars on what they would call a Simultaneist book, La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France. Considered a colorful masterwork and a milestone for book art, it was published as a six-foot vertical panel in 1913.[vi] Earlier in 1912, the Delaunays and Apollinaire had distanced themselves from Henri-Martin Barzun, originator of Simultaneism and Orphism, contending that he was moving Simultaneism and Orphism in the wrong direction despite the fact they were his ideas; as early as 1906 his idea caught the imagination of the soon to be founder of Futurism, Marinetti. They, the Delaunays and Apollinaire, appropriated the terms Simultaneist and Orphism from Barzun shifting the Simultaneist concept to a simultaneous experience of the words on paper or canvas and a new form of abstract, brightly colored geometric painting and Orphism to a pure art and poetry as a clear lyricism.[vii] Barzun and his cubist painter colleague, Gleizes, were large scale creators who challenged themselves to capture the epic scale, the macro. Apollinaire and others turned these expansive terms into an expression of objects on the micro scale. The Simultaneist ideas proposed by Barzun were reduced to a revised Simultaneist idea of entering the page or canvas through simultaneous viewing and reading routes. This reductionist rewrite found its way into the American avant-garde.
            In 1912, Barzun and Apollinaire each founded a magazine to represent their views. Brazun established Poème et Drame and Apollinaire, Les Soirées de Paris. In Poème et Drame, Barzun called for a poetry exhibiting the essence of an orchestrated
Orphic lyricism with multiple, simultaneous voices. His poetic type, Poeme Simultané, was formulated and composed before the Italian and Russian parallel expressions inspired by his creation. Before his major opus, L’Orphride, Universel Poeme: An Epic Journey in Seven Episodes, 1913, he published La Terrestre Tragedi, 1907 and Hymne des Forces, 1912.[viii]
            Henri-Martin Barzun, if mentioned during a discussion concerning Apollinaire and avant-garde history, usually remains, at least among American and English writing, either a figure glossed over as an aside, a figure inhabiting the world of footnotes or an unfavorable and thus dismissible figure regarding the controversy of the founding of both Simultaneism and Orphism holding neither the halo of fame nor the aura of a premature demise. At times a reference blurs him to a fast moving shadow of little or no consequence. Digging deeper, materials available outside those predisposed towards Apollinaire underscore his obvious importance as a maker of, shaper of and influencer of 1906 to WW1 visual poetry and illuminated language theories, approaches and works.
            Barzun directly influenced Italian Futurism when introducing Poeme Simultané /Simultaneism to Marinetti during his visits to Abbaye de Creteil (1906-1908). Many other writers and artists visited the commune as word spread through Europe, including Russia. With the painter Albert Gleizes and others, Barzun co-founded the idealistic art commune for writers and artists. He rejected the single voiced poem as a form to adequately capture modern, hectic urban life with all its voices and noise. The single voice implied a limited awareness and experience, no matter how large or deep, against the backdrop of the new dynamics of the 20th century. Only with Poeme Simultané, simultaneous, multiple voices through choral chanting, Barzun proposed, was it plausible to express the multi pointedness reality of the new burgeoning and bustling city energies. His poems became visual scores for performance; his first book applying his theory was published in 1908, L’Hymne des Forces (The Hymn of forces).
            Barzun with Gleizes and others of the Abbaye de Creteil group worked on a new integrative form, an arc spanning all the arts under the idea of Orphism. It followed that Orphism would be fully integrated with a new form of society. In their eyes Orphism required a group effort to form its theory given the vastness and complexity of the project which was to create a new art for a new social program for the future, a Futurism before the Futurists and closer to what their Russian peers were to gravitate towards as opposed to the Italian forthcoming model eventually merging with state fascism. As a part of this arc, Gleizes developed his cubism with a larger vision in mind, large scale scenes in contrast to the still life forms of Picasso, Barque and Gris (their study of form), again, in general, closer to the forthcoming Russian interests.
            Abbaye de Creteil ceased to exist as a formal group in 1908 having pinned its self-sufficient future on publishing ventures that failed to meet its financial requirements. After its demise, the individuals with other writers and artists formed a larger circle around which Apollinaire, as an outsider, orbited, as he did with many groups. He was influenced by their theories and practices as illustrated in his book on Cubism (that was published later in 1912) presenting views closely associated with the epic views found in the art, writings and theories of Abbaye de Creteil.[ix]
            Robert Delaunay, who with his wife, Sonia, later became an ally with Apollinaire in the controversy, came into the circle around the same time. His cubist paintings followed the theories first proposed by Barzun and Gleizes that the wider group embraced. By painting within this field of theories, both Gleizes and Delaunay easily made the step into abstract.[x] Daniel Roberts points to the Delaunay painting influences from both Gleizes and Barzun. He points to, for example, Delaunay’sSimultaneous Discs” of 1912 sourced from Barzun’s poems.
            Though scheduled, Delaunay’s “City of Paris” was so large it could not displayed at the 1913 Armory Show in New York City. Roberts points out that the painting contained many of the ideas Gleizes honed and a Barzun long poem from which Delaunay sourced.[xi] In the same year, Delaunay painted his break away simultaneous discs,Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon.” Roberts points to a 1907 Barzun poem of identical subject content.[xii] I am not critical of Delaunay’s and Apollinaire’s inspiration sourced from the Abbaye de Creteil founders but am critical of their usurping Simultaneism and Orphism as their own formulations while at the same time sourcing work from those they discredited and that literary and art historians perpetuate(d) the theft/distortion.
            Ezra Pound aficionados may be familiar with Barzun, at least by name, through comments in Poetry, Volume 3, 1913, New Age, Vlo VIII, No.25, 1913, New Directions, 1946, Annual #9 and the Pisan Cantos:

Henri-Martin Barzun stands apart from the rest and preaches "Simultaneity," which is to say, he wishes us to write our poems for a dozen voices at once as they write an orchestral score. M. Jammes has done something like this in Le Triomphe de la Vie. M. Barzun's ideas, as expressed in L'Ere du Drame, are interesting, and L'Hymne des Forces moved me by its content and underlying force rather than by its execution. The proletariat would seem to be getting something like a coherent speech. This seems to me significant. Ezra Pound[xiii]

Barzun’s Hymne des Forces moved me, although I thought it rhetorical. It seemed to me significant that the voice of the mass should have come SO near to being coherent. M. Barzun is nowhere near being content with the book above-mentioned. The polyphonic method will be justified when a great work is presented through it. In the meantime there is no use blinding oneself to the fact that the next great work may be written in this manner. It is not an impossibility, and M. Barzun is not altogether an imbecile. Ezra Pound[xiv]

  there are in fact several course expressions used in the
army and Monsieur Barzun had, indubitably, an idea, about amo

domini 1910 but I do not know what he has done with it
(Ezra Pound, Canto LXXVII Cantos, 492)

Barzun’s writings on Orphic Art span a number of years in various incarnations under different but parallel American self-published titles that currently are unavailable rare books except in a few libraries or for a hefty collectable book price. In his Orpheus: A World Chorus, he describes L’Ophéide composed of 750 pages mounted in 12 atlases and when open containing double pages 20x59 in visual spread; over 100 pages later, a photograph documents the 12 volumes.[i] At this time only a few images are available on the web.[ii] He undoubtedly is someone whose works need immediate attention, republication of older texts and the publication of his major 12 volume opus, L’Orphride, Universel Poeme.
            The assumption by many that Chinese and Japanese ideograms were pictorial not phonetic systems lead to an approach of the visualization of poetry based on this error. The thread of this mistaken assumption moved into early Brazilian concrete poetry and seems to have remained among some in San Paulo and among some Americans promoting San Paulo concrete above other visual poetic centers, groups or individuals. From this error that the ideogram was mainly pictorial not phonetic, came the invention of the visual poem type, the ideogramme, that soon became coined as the calligramme, that was composed of words forming images. The American English speaker’s inclination to compress words into their shortest form, the imported Asian short poem forms, especially haiku, and the American short poem that grew out of Emily Dickinson and the Imagists, all, I suggest, inclined those in American concrete poetry to ignore, forget or erase the wider spectrum of American painters and poets composing and painting visual text or its parts before the 1960s in order to promote their work as new and unique. Thus, Apollinaire’s ideogrammes/calligrammes became and remain a vital energetic influence especially in English language visual poetry. His calligrammes have become, as a form, either a rallying point as an example for use of pictograph-like approaches or an example to be purged in a contemporary mustering call for purity of typography without a visual image. As such, other forms rarely enter the discussion despite their strength and beauty.
            Surrounded by works and theories, Apollinaire developed his ideogrammes that became the calligrammes. Apparently, it was Zayas who informed and thereby extended for Apollinaire his linkage to a larger ideograme context. At that time the ideogram was associated with Chinese and Japanese writing; Zayas expanded Apollinaire‘s horizon to include the Mayan and Aztec ideograms.
            Apollinaire published his first ‘formal’ ideogramme, “Lettre-Ocean,” in his magazine, Soirees de Paris, August 1914.[iii] It was republished in 291 in 1915.[iv] This ideogramme is considered the most Futurist-like or Futurist influenced of his ideogrammes/calligrammes and his longest, a two page composition. Apollinaire’s “L'Antitradition Futuriste, Manifeste=Synthese” (August 1913), may be his first published ideogramme.[v] The psychotypes of Zayas greatly impressed Apollinaire. Zayas created an Apollinaire psychotype which was published in both magazines.[vi] Apollinaire’s works from 1914 onward were reproduced by the newly invented photograme providing readers and viewers the carefully composed hand scripted ideogrammes/calligrammes — words freed from the bondage of type-setting requirements.[vii] He died from the influenza outbreak in 1918. His collection, Calligrammes, was published in 1919.[viii]
            In France, a friend of Apollinaire, Pierre Albert-Birot, edited Sic (1916-1919), a magazine supporting Futurism and Cubism. Apollinaire’s famous “Il Pleut” (It’s Raining) appeared in the December 1916 issue. [ix] Albert-Birot composed calligrammes, landscape, sign poems and other types of visual poems.[x] His work was later praised by Lettriste Robert Sabatier, saying he was fifty years ahead of the Lettristes.
            Among those consciously or unconsciously disappeared that must be returned to the historical commentary is the body of work by Henry-Matin Barzun currently housed in the Columbia University Library Rare Book Archives. That they were composed on non-archival typewriter and graph paper further requires immediate attention. The acid is slowly disintegrating these works unique among the European avant-garde revisualization of their respective literatures and language on paper and canvas. Another reason for publication and exhibition of these works is that he is part of the French contribution to the American avant-garde: he first arrived in American in 1917 on a diplomatic mission and moved and settled with his family in 1919. He continued his efforts towards Orphism through teaching and writing until his death. I was fortunate to have a request to visit these works answered by Michael Winkler who took 239 photographs of a very small portion of Barzun’s archived works. The beauty and complexity of these 100-85-years-old works, many in color, would stand out today within anthologies and exhibitions.

            The following are three digital photographs of Barzun’s major opus by Michael Winkler and assisted by Karla Nielson. These are part of the Henri-Martin Barzun archived work are the Columbia University Rare Book Library. A thank you of considerable gratitude goes out not only to Michael but also to Karla, librarian extraordinaire, who facilitated Michael’s visit and photographing enabling him to capture over 230 images.

Pages 489-494

Page 494

Arrow of Destiny - Pages 459-470

Back to the States, Zayas and the Stiegliz Circle.

PROTARCHUS: Once more, Socrates, I must ask what you mean.
SOCRATES: My meaning is certainly not obvious, and I will endeavour to be plainer. I do not mean by beauty of form such beauty as that of animals or pictures, which the many would suppose to be my meaning; but, says the argument, understand me to mean straight lines and circles, and the plane or solid figures which are formed out of them by turning-lathes and rulers and measurers of angles; for these I affirm to be not only relatively beautiful, like other things, but they are eternally and absolutely beautiful, and they have peculiar pleasures, quite unlike the pleasures of scratching.

            The above quote was sent to Stieglitz during the 1910 Picasso show at Gallery 291. Reprinting it in his book where he, Zayas while discussing Picasso, mentioned seeing this quote in different translations over the following years.[i] Various interpretations of Zaya’s psychotype “Portrait of Stieglitz,”[ii] seemed to have overlooked the above quote by Plato as an additional layer of meaning. Conceptual to their core at the same time capturing an intuitive essence seen by Zaya, his psychotypes I see as, if not visual poems, at least on the border of and by assuming a conceptual layering, the conceptual idea can be read as a connector to the poetic layer. His psychotypes should be considered part of a type of visual poetry or if not then within the wider field of visual text art by expressing mathematical symbols as abstraction and number scapes. His invention of abstract symbolic cubism portraiture had a wide influence as others embraced the idea by folding its implications into their individual directions.

Marius de Zayas’ psychotype, “Alfred Stieglitz” (Camera Work) 46, plate V

Marius de Zayas’ psychotype, “Francis Picabia” (Camera Work) 46, plate X

Marius de Zayas along with Alfred Stieglitz, Agnes Ernest Meyer — its primary financial backer — and Paul Haviland in 1915 and 1916 edited and published 12 issues with runs of 1000 copies of the Avant-garde magazine 291. On the pages of its short life, several visual poems first appeared in an American magazine.[i] In the initial issue of March 1915, he published one of Apollinaire’s ideogrammes, “Voyage,” before he assigned the term calligramme to his works. Zayas had brought several manuscripts by Apollinaire upon his return in 1914.[ii] In the second issue of April 1915, he published the first known American English visual poem, “Mental Reactions,” a collaboration with Agnes Ernest Meyer.[iii] Considering Agnes Meyer and Zayas co-composed this work, it seems to be the first American collaborative modern visual poem, in fact, a visual poem composed by two minorities in the arts. The third issue contained his illustration of a long prose poem by Katharine N. Rhoades, his poem-drawing, and “Woman” by Agnes Meyer. The issue also contains J. B. Kerfoot’s calligramme; he contributed to Camera Work and wrote book reviews for Life magazine. His “A Bunch of Keys” could be considered the first American visual poem by an individual, excluding Zayas if his psychotypes are discounted as visual poem material. Zayas continued his collaborations with others including Picabia; “Femme” was published in issue 9 in November 1915.[iv]
            Unraveling the Zaya and Picabia echo chamber of mutual influence over the years presents a worthy probe for someone. Picabia returned to New York in 1915 for a second time after participating in the 1913 Armory Show and connecting with the 291 circle, especially it seems, Zaya. He brought with him work for a planned exhibit at Photo-Secession. It was during this time, between visits, that he “abandoned his former manner in painting and started his pictures of machinery.”[v] That is to say, he moved on from cubism to his machine inspired drawings with text, works now called pre-dadaesque. The mechanical-like drawing portraits of Stielgitz, Zayas and Haviland and Fantasy,[vi] published in 291, seem, at least to me, influenced by Zayas’ psychotypes begun after his meeting Picasso.
            Picabia’s earliest work in the new genre, “Mechanical Expression Through Our Own Mechanical Expression,” was created in 1913.[vii] Upon returning to France after his 1913 experience with the Armory Show and the Stielgitz circle, having seen the new works and perhaps revisiting, in a new light, the older works of Italian Futurists, the two Russian Futurists, Goncharova and Larionov, Legers and what is more important, Duchamp, the shift away from cubism began. Beginning in 1916, Picabia with others began publishing 391 magazine in Barcelona. He also became an instigating force in the Ultraísmo (Ultraist Movement). Barcelona, New York City and Zurich were oases for artists and writers seeking refuge from the mayhem of the war. Out of these three cities arose one of the next avant-garde movements, Dadaism.
            Max Weber remained outside the Stiegliz circle after his falling out with Stiegliz. Two works by Weber were painted during this time may be of interest. The second work of 1916, conceptually, at least for me, that seems influenced by his interest in the 4th dimension, bridges the physical and metaphysical spectrums or folds them into a unit that leaps above, so to speak, the machine-based works of Duchamp and Picabia whose works today are better known than Weber’s (See appendix).
            For a more complete history of American English visual poetry, the story of Marius de Zayas fully illuminated with his works and his direct and indirect influence awaits. The materials exist for this nearly ignored and important chapter of our country’s early contribution to visual text arts in general and visual poetry in particular.[viii] Collections of small literary magazines are now available online for analysis as well as books in pdf format that can extend this history further. For example, there is the relationship (touched on later) of the painter Stuart Davis with E E Cummings and William Carlos Williams.
            Two other Mexican artists spending time in New York during this period also created visual text art work. Torres Palomar, living in New York City, created intriguing visual letter works he called Kalogramas. He defined a kalograma, as “the psychological portrait of an individual expressed in color with the letters of his name.” As of this writing, the earliest mention of him and his kalogramas was in The Craftsman, October 1914.[ix] He went unmentioned by Zaya in his book and by others. His definition seems a bit more than a coincidence given its closeness to Zayas’ earlier conceived psychotype. Nevertheless, he exhibited a series of kalogramas in Gallery 291, December 1914-January 1915.
            Jose Juan Tablada , the second individual, composed several ideogrammes in 1915 while in New York City, five of which later appeared in his 1920 book, Li Po. Before fleeing Mexico and arriving in Texas in 1914 and then in New York City, he had visited Japan twice. He had been writing the first Spanish haikus and was instrumental in introducing this form into the Spanish language long before the haiku worked its way into American poetics. He maintained the spirit of haiku while not feeling or seeing the necessity to being bound by its 5x7x5 syllable structure. Open to the new, visually aware (his father was a painter), it seems an easy step to compose visual forms, especially when one considers his exposure to Japanese calligraphy associated with haiku. Exposure to avant-garde forms in New York appears likely to have been the necessary creative spark. Beginning with the ideogramme (obviously influenced by calligrammes),[x] he followed his own intuitive impulses expanding his visual compositional field.
            Other pre-1920s American visual poems are to be found in publications such as Picabia’s 391, Blindman, Others, The Ridgefiled Gazook, New York Dada (one issue 1921), Rongwrong, The Soil and TNT.[xi] These publications are a starting point for the recovery of overlooked, forgotten and or disappeared visual text artists and poets and their works. For example, Blindman was a dada magazine published by Marcel Duchamp, Beatrice Wood, and Henri-Pierre Roché in New York in 1917. The poem, “Eyes” by Robert Carlton Brown, a visual poem, not a calligramme, to me, foreshadows or anticipates the humorous Paul Reps and Kenneth Patchen visual poems.[xii] In its only issue, 1917, Rongwrong published a ‘coded/anti symbol’ poem by H.F.(?), “Portrait de M. et R. Ensemble,” anticipating many morse code, braille, strike over, abstract line and wordless poems. Though to be historically accurate, as far as I know at this writing the first such modern poem of this type appeared in 1906 composed by Christian Morgensternin found in his book, Galgenlieder.[xiii] Below on the same page, H.F’s (?) typed poem anticipated Cummings.[xiv] In its only issue, 1919, TNT published a visual poem, “ETYMONS” by Adon Lacroix, a pure concrete poem by the concrete poetry movement’s definition and yet went unnoticed or ‘disappeared.'[xv] She was a painter and poet. Soon after coming to America from Belgium, she moved in with Man Ray whom she married in 1915. Another poem, a collaboration, “la logique assassine,” her poem, his design, was composed also in 1919 (again, unnoticed or ‘disappeared’) but published first in a small edition in 1920.[xvi] A 1919 piece by Picabia for the Zurich magazine Dada, edited by Tristan Tzara, is but one of countless intermedia/borderblurr works by Dadaists.[xvii] Note the reference to Picabia’s 391 magazine.
            Dada began before it was found, so say the Dadaists Piciaba, Duchamp and Kandinsky. Dadaists pointed to Kandinsky’s 1912 wood cut illustrated book of sound poems, Glange, as perhaps the earliest modern sound poem.[xviii] World War I had scattered the avant-garde groups and individuals to various national pockets cutting off exchanges until the war’s end. The exception was the Russian avant-garde groups and individuals who returned to Russia either because of the war or later the revolution. Not only were the Russians in many respects in the earliest forefront of modern art developments, during the war and particularly the revolution, they continued to evolve in various new and profound directions. They are their own significant story of illumination for which space limits me to just this note.
            At the more or less calm center of the world war hurricane, several individuals came together in Zurich and formed the Dada Movement. Beginnings of Dada also occurred around 291 Gallery in New York. Since materials for dada are easy to come by and much is available for viewing and reading, I will pass quickly through this movement that grew to become a major force throughout the twenties. Their form of visual language art primarily was that of extending the college’s spectrum as a perceptive and in many cases nonsensical statement. The photogram and montage were also widely employed and extended. Language and symbol were fractured; its sound mainly onomatopoeic. An important addition to the collage, montage and canvas was the expression of language and symbol in the third dimension, a sculpturing.[xix] Throughout the 1920s and onward design work continued to evolve.[xx]
            The influence of the Stieglitz Circle continued into the 1940s. While neither composing nor making visual poems, the poet and doctor of medicine, William Carlos Williams, was deeply influenced by the American avant-garde scene, first at Gallery 291, and later by the broadening developments in little magazines and by painters. Many of the relationships first developed at that time were maintained over the years as he worked out the poetic of an American vision within the contexts of 1) image first without philosophizing, the thing itself, and 2) “making it new” culled from Stieglitz’s demands and the exhibited works of the painters of the gallery.[xxi]
            Stuart Davis was perhaps the youngest artist to participate in the Armory Show. Davis and others of the Stieglitz Circle wrestled with the trends they themselves formed after the Armory Show. At the same time, they viewed with suspicion the machine based works of Picabia, Duchamp, and the psychotypes of Zaya. Over-coming their initial resistance and misgivings to those works and their implications, they blended the seemingly contraries into what became labeled as Precisionism. Williams Carlos Williams selected a painting by Davis, who had published artworks in small magazines and The Masses, for the cover of his 1920 book, Kora in Hell, Improvisations.
            E E Cummings and Davis were friends. As E E Cummings was moving into his mature style, so too Davis whose works in the 1920s took on a look and feel of what became concrete poetry but large-scale and in color. Both were applying their own unique insights to the poem or the painted word. At this time, as far as I know, little or no commentary on what if any influence, echo or ripple effect, they had on each other’s works and insights. Davis became the pop of Pop. Many of his works could be accepted as concrete art.
            The countless lyrical visual poems by E E Cummings that influenced and continue to influence following generations of visual language artists and poets is a large subject in itself. His first book published in 1923, Tulips and Chimneys, contained no ‘sustained’ visual stretches while numerous instances of his new syntax and punctuation usages most probably “mused” from Gertrude Stein are to be found throughout. Since he denies influence from Apollinaire, the Armory Show and the Stieglitz Circle (all of which I find difficult to swallow), I suggest Stein. Hints of what were to come in his next collection, & (AND) in which his visual poetics exhibited a full maturity are in 1) CHANSONS INNOCENTES, 2) in impression III, 3) in impression V, 4) in Portraits I, 5) in Portraits III, and 6) in Portraits VIII.[xxii] Line breaks in the first book were not new to poetry by 1916.
            Overlooked during this period was Marius de Zayas’s unrecognized (or nearly erased) influence, his abstract and symbolic portrait works, or psychotypes, on three of the Stieglitz circle of painters — Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley. Space does not permit a fleshing out of each painter’s story and works despite the importance of their long ignored contribution to American visual text art. See the Appendix for samples of their visual text art.


            When visual poetry history was written by the American concrete poets in the late 1960 and early 1970s, nothing appeared regarding the Stieglitz Circle’s first American composed visual poems published in 291, no mention of works in other publications before 1950, no mention of any word painter’s works into the late 1960s, no mention of the works of Patchen, Reps and many others. At least they were consistent. These histories and now some vispo poets, mostly for me neo-concrete poets, continue to leave many individuals and visual text art streams undiscussed; disguised lineage persists as history.
            Pattern Poetry: Guide to an Unknown Literature by Dick Higgins is a superb and worthwhile collection. Yet, he promotes one historical type to prop up the geometrics of the concrete poem at the expense of the vast number of ignored non-geometric types composed before 1900. While Higgins was and remains an important poet-scholar, he, like many others living in New York City, ignored or consciously disappeared from discussion available historical contributions in public and private collections throughout the city. Perhaps his view of the dadaist provides a clue when he dismissed all dadaists as mere symbolists. It seems at his core he maintained his guardian status of concrete poetry at the expense of the wider field of the visual text arts and their history of development while claiming at the same time to be the multimedia defender and expert. Thus, it appears he picked sides with the materialistic and self-referential approach opposing those of the highly intuitive and mystical sourcing. This is a divide whose demarcation line seems to be the response to WW1 shattering the prognosis by modern artists, writers and poets of a coming new age of enlightenment.[xxiii]
            Most of the composed and painted visual text art works remain contrary to orthodox concrete history. Efforts continue to rewrite visual text art history by disappearing word painters and much of visual poetry not only between the early 1900s and 1960s but also from the early 1980s through the mid-1990s by some academics to enhance “the acceptable” norms and maintain the narrower history.[xxiv] One finds among this group many late 1990s and early 21st century attempts to inflate the Brazilian Sao Paulo concrete poets as the primary birth group as unsurpassable experimenters and even an extreme hubris overreach by calling their poetry “heroic” although none of them were arrested by the Brazilian fascist government when in power. Many Brazilian lexical and visual poets were arrested, as were lexical and visual poets elsewhere in Latin America who were also tortured or killed. Another weak argument points to Ezra Pound’s early writing where he urged making it new: though “to make it new” was to make translation new, current.[xxv] Making the calligramme “new” came about by replacing pictogramic images of shaped language with geometric word and letter patterning, in some cases mathematically precise geometrics. While at the same time past avant-garde groups and individuals were mentioned as predecessors (in practice these became casual reference points), the calligramme was the focal point. Thus, concrete poetry made the ideogram its foundation, not its phonetic resonance but the continued adherence to its pictorial misconception. This is the primary creative source of the San Paulo’s Noigandres Group and the North Atlantic English speaking concrete of the 1950s into the present thereby moving unwittingly into an exclusive cud de sac and echo chamber that maintains its historical distance from egalitarian visual poetry, painted word and other visual text arts.

Oceano Ca
full moon
October 2015

Visual text art samples of early modern visual poems, painted word/symbol, mathematical art and visual music scores, etc

Marius de Zayas
   Portrait of Stieglitz[i]
   Portrait of Paul Haviland [ii]
   Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt [iii]
   Two Friends[iv]
   Portrait of Mrs. Eugene Meyer [v]
   Portrait of Francis Picabia.[vi]
   Portrait of Katharine N. Rhoades[vii]
   Marion Beckett[viii]

Jose Juan Tablada, Li Po (includes 1915 dated ideogrames, NY)[ix]

Marsden Hartley
   Oriental Symphony [x]
   Portrait of a Lady[xii]
   Painting Number 47[xiii]
   Painting Number 48[xiv]
   Portrait of a German Officer[xv]
   Morgenrot (Dawn)[xvi]
   Eight Bells Folly Memorial to Hart Crane[xviii]
   Sustain Comedy[xix]

Max Weber
   Slide Lecture at the Metropolitan Museum[xxi]

Charles Demuth,
   Dove, (Arthur Dove)[xxii]
   O’Keefe (Georgia O'Keeffe)[xxiii]
   I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (Portrait of Willima Carlos Williams)[xxvi]
   Love Love Love (Portrait of Gertrude Stein)[xxvii]

Arthur Dove

   Portrait of Ralph Dusenberry[i]
   Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz[ii]
   The Critic[iii]
   The Intellectual[v]

Francis Picabia
   Dada Movement[vi]
   Cover drawing for 391[viii]
   Tamis ou vent[ix]
   Le Papa[x]
   Portrait de Jacques Hébertot[xii]

Stuart Davis
   Lucky Strike[xiii]
   C & W[xv]
   The Mellow Pad (1945-1951)[xvi]
   Owh! in San Pao[xviii]
   Report from Rockport[xix]
   Salt Shaker[xx]

Man Ray and Adon Lacroix, La Logique Assassine (Murderous Logic)[xxi]

Man Ray
   Electricite la Ville[xxiv]
   Ce qui manque à nous tous (What We All Lack)[xxv]

Mina Loy, Sketch for an Alphabet [xxviii]

Smith’s January, 1907 exhibition was a commercial success outselling Stieglitz’s photographers. Later, her illustrations for the Waite tarot deck spread her work, steeped in occult and mystical symbolism, wider than most modern artists. Her mystical-visionary works’ direct and indirect influence on the Stieglitz Circle members, especially the word and symbol painters and portraitists, is a subject for exploration. As the Circle moved into modern art, she left the it.
Weber had a falling out with Stieglitz over the 1913 Armory Show. His work, as a result, was not shown. That same year, Weber had the first one man exhibition at a museum, thus becoming the first American modern artist to do so.
"The works of the orphic artist must simultaneously give a pure aesthetic pleasure; a structure which is self-evident; and a sublime meaning, that is, a subject. This is pure art." Apollinaire.
Sound track excerpt: image. Oct 2015.
Daniel Roberts, Albert Gleizes, 1881-1953 : a retrospective exhibition. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, 1964 pdf p16 Oct 2015..
Daniel Roberts, pp 16-17.
Daniel Roberts, p30; painting Oct 2015.
Daniel Roberts, p 21; painting Oct 2015.
Poetry, A Magazine of Verse, Vol 3, No.1,1913 pdf p29. Oct 2015.
The New Age, Vol13, No.25, Oct 16, 1913 pdf p728 Oct 2015.
Henri MArtin Barzun, Orpheus: A World Chorus. New York: Liberal Press,, 1962 p23 & 135.
This excerpt is part of the third episode of Barzun's "Orhéide" written in 1913.
Guillaume Apollinaire, lettre-ocean Oct 2015.
 Official site, Oct 2015.
Marcel Adema and Michel Decaudin, APOLLINAIRE: Oeuvres poetiques, Paris: Gallimard, 1965.
Willard Bohn, THE AESTHETICS OF VISUAL POETRY, 1914-1928. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Ann Hyde Greet, trans, CALLIGRAMMES: Poems Of Peace And War (1913-1916), Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
L'Antitradition Futuriste, Manifeste=Synthese. Paris Oct 2015.
Portrait Guillaume Apollinaire, 1914 Les Soirées de Paris Oct 2015.
Klaus Peter Dencker, TEXT-BILDER: Visuelle Poesie International. Schaukberg, Germany: Verlag M. DuMont, 1972.
Marius de Zayas, How, When And Why Modern Art Came To New York; ed., Francis M Naumann. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,1996. p23.
Willard Bohn, Apollinaire and the International Avant-garde. Albany, NY: SUNY, 1997
Willard Bohn, THE AESTHETICS OF VISUAL POETRY, 1914-1928. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. p50. 291 issue 2, p3 Oct 2015.
Marius de Zayas and Francis Picabia, FEMME! Oct 2015.
also 291 visual poems: see de Zayas, How, When And Why Modern . . ., pp 74-74.
Ibid. p 51.
Sarah Greenough, , Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries. New York: Bulfinch, 2001, p206; pdf Francis Picabia, 1915 - Department of Art History p 212 Oct 2015. p212 can be looked upon as a portrait
Sarah Greenough, p206; pdf Francis Picabia, 1915 - Department of Art History p 206 Oct 2015.
Marius de Zayas , How, When, and Why Modern Art Came to New York. New York: MIT Press, 1996.
391 The University of Iowa has a vast Dada downloadable collection Oct 2015.
See Apendix.
Rudolf E. Kuenzli, editor, NEW YORK DADA. New York: Willis Locker & Owens, 1986.
for more details --Bram Dijkstra, Cubism, Stieglizt and the Early Poetry of William Carlos William.Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1978.
E.E. Cummings, COMPLETE POEMS. New York: Harourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. pp 24, 49, 51, 53, 55, and 60.
This suggests for me a couple of topics I can only point to. The first being that this is the same attitude carried by the Italian futurists who rejected all previous works contrary to their manifestos beginning at the threads on their back. The second being that the aesthetic fracture inherent within the avant-garde between the materialists and mystics or those sourcing mystical and intuitive materials intellectually, not experientially. The latter were influential before WW1; after the war, the former attained dominance and remain so to this day. After WW1, the mystic was treated much like the Catholics and Protestants view their mystics: tolerated with disdain or shunned. Of course, exceptions of acceptance and embrace exist to prove the rule.
Between 1976  and 1990 many avant-garde small press magazines published concrete poems alongside visual poems. Countless mail art shows displayed both concrete and visual poetry.
If Pound was actually seriously probed as a supporting prop, his writings on Barzun should have caught their attention. Barzun‘s works are remembered in France and Italy to this day.
1920 Oct 2015.

"We all come and go unknown."

Joni Mitchell, Hejira

We are accepting 3 more submissions for TOK, Issue 23.  Send submissions by New Year's Day 2016 to


  1. Most engaging. It serves to reconnect me with the series of Mesostics that I created some time ago. My books of handmade paper that I constructed as "living things"; which when sitting on its broad binding opened as a flower as its "pages" were segmented into four sections displaying the affixed mesostics within. I will be happy to offer images.

  2. Most engaging. It serves to reconnect me with the series of Mesostics that I created some time ago. My books of handmade paper that I constructed as "living things"; which when sitting on its broad binding opened as a flower as its "pages" were segmented into four sections displaying the affixed mesostics within. I will be happy to offer images.