grOnk magazine: first and second series 1967 – 1970 (Part 3)

In August 1967 bpNichol published the last (and eighth) issue of the first series of grOnk magazine; this issue features the almost entirely non-textual, visual, comic-book-like, frames-within-frames structure of “Scraptures: Sequence Eleven.” (This work is already available on bpnichol.ca.)

The second series of grOnk was begun in September 1968 and the issues for this series were published irregularly. The fourth issue of the second series features Barbara O’Connelly’s “THERE WERE DREAMS.” The cover is a sheet of 17 x 22″ cream card-stock folded in half; inside are seven individual sheets of cream 8.5 x 11 paper stapled together. Curiously: while the first couple issues of the series were published in 1968, this work by Connelly was printed at Ganglia Press in July 1967. “THERE WERE DREAMS” is a lovely exploration of concrete poetry as a hand-drawn, hand-written art that’s resolutely not of the machinic.

The fifth issue of grOnk features Nichol’s “The Captain Poetry Poems,” published by Bill Bissett’s Blew Ointment Press and later incorporated into grOnk magazine in 1970. (This work is already available on bpnichol.ca.)

Another publishing curiosity: the sixth issue of the second series was published in 1969, a year earlier than the fifth issue, and featured John Riddell’s “POPE LEO: EL ELOPE” with drawings by bpNichol. This is an early but fascinating work by the Toronto-based John Riddell (whom I’ve written already about here) that is a anagrammatic exploration of the language possibilities inherent in letters ‘p,’ ‘o,’ ‘l,’ and ‘e’ (hence the sub-title, “a tragedy in four letters”) – sometimes using one of the letters twice, sometimes dropping one, always rearranging. It’s a remarkable meshing together of concrete poetry and combinatorial writing practices.

> See also grOnk magazine: Canadian Concrete Poetry 1967-1988 (Part 1)

> See also bpNichol’s “Singing Hands Series”: Canadian Concrete Poetry 1966 (Part 2)

> See also grOnk magazine: third series, issue 1 1969 (part 4)

> See also grOnk magazine: third series, issues 3, 4, 7, 8 1969 (part 5)

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bpNichol’s “Singing Hands Series”: Canadian Concrete Poetry 1966 (Part 2)

I’m starting to understand that part of the reason why few people, if anyone, has a complete run of grOnk is because it appears the print runs for each issue varied vastly (from 20 to, say, 200 copies); some Nichol simply gave away to friends, others he distributed through the Village Bookstore in Toronto, and others he mailed out to an international mailing list. More, while Nichol intended to have eight issues in each series, after the mid-1970s it seems that publication became more erratic and some series are missing issues while other series had issues published later alongside issues from a different series altogether. grOnk is, then, a bibliographer’s nightmare. To complicate matters further: Nichol published separate but parallel mini-series of chapbooks, pamphlets, postcards etc alongside grOnk. As you can see in the “Ganglia Press Index,” there was also the Ganglia Concrete Series, the Singing Hand Series, the 5¢ Mimeo Series, Tonto or Series, and the 35¢ Mimeo Series (just to name a few). Some of these series were then later absorbed into certain grOnk issues (for example, John Riddell’s “Pope Leo: El Elope” was published in 1969 as part of the 35¢ Mimeo Series but then later absorbed into grOnk Series 2 issue 6.

The Singing Hand Series is particularly interesting as it was published from 1965 to 1966 and so pre-dates grOnk by several years. Nichol used this series to publish work by David Harris and d.a. levy as well as a couple works by himself. The piece I have and which I’ve digitized here is “COLD MOUNTAIN” which Nichol has annotated in the “Ganglia Press Index” by writing “burnable mimeo edition (never ordered & thus never released).” The piece is undated but it was likely published (though not distributed) in 1966 and would have sold for 10¢.

I’ve created a pdf of “COLD MOUNTAIN” but, as it’s a kind of flip-book – a resolutely bookbound genre whose materiality does not translate into the digital – my description here will hopefully augment the digital version. The piece is about 3 x 3 inches, with four strips of paper folded in half and a single sheet inserted in the middle – all of which are stapled together. It has clearly been written with a typewriter and while the structure of the poem doesn’t necessarily depend on the typewriter, the precise distance between letters no doubt helped to visually create words that ascend and descend as along the contours of a mountain. Opening the small pamphlet we read, “MOUNTAIN / COLD / TO / GO”; flipping to the back page we read, “RETURN / FROM / COLD / MOUNTAIN.”

Already its charm, not to mention the meaning behind its material structure, is lost in this kind of description as well as in the digital scan of the front and back pages – for, as we turn over each strip of paper that is marked with a single word, we find directly underneath two or three other typewritten lines which we can read along with the word on the verso, the words above, and even the lines on the next strip of paper. In other words, following on Raymond Queneau’s unreadable Cent mille milliards de poemes from 1961, “COLD MOUNTAIN” is a more modest – though still compelling in its minimalism – work of potential literature.

> See also grOnk magazine: Canadian Concrete Poetry 1967-1988 (Part 1)

> See also grOnk magazine: first and second series 1967 – 1970 (Part 3)

> See also grOnk magazine: third series, issue 1 1969 (part 4)

> See also grOnk magazine: third series, issues 3, 4, 7, 8 1969 (part 5)

grOnk magazine: Canadian Concrete Poetry 1967-1988 (Part 1)

The most remarkable package arrived in the mail last week from Nelson Ball, longstanding Canadian poet, editor, book-seller and husband to the remarkable Canadian painter Barbara Caruso: a nearly complete set of grOnk magazine along with bpNichol’s Captain Poetry Poems, the second issue of Grease Ball Comics, and Nichol’s “Cold Mountain.” It’s difficult for me to describe the sense of awe and gratitude that came over me as I pulled out each piece, one at a time. I was holding what was for me a crucial piece of Canadian poetry/publishing history – one that I’d only read about and occasionally seen isolated pdfs. Given the importance and the rarity of these documents, what I’d like to do is write a short blog post on each issue, each item, and include a pdf of each that I’ll also put up on the online archive bpnichol.ca. I hope you enjoy!

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I haven’t yet found any articles on the history of grOnk magazine – at the moment, all I know is that bpNichol established Ganglia Magazine in 1965, which was published by Ganglia Press, which in turn published grOnk magazine with David Aylward & Rob Hindley-Smith in 1967. Included in the bundle of goodies from Ball is the “Ganglia Press Index”, compiled by Nichol for Ganglia Press/grOnk series 8 number 7 in 1972. (The entire bibliography is now online here.). In the “Introduction” Nichol writes:

somewhere in 66 i met dave UU for the first time  he and i and rob (nee rah) smith decided it’d be nice to publish a monthly mag of concrete & related poetries & distribute it free so we invited dave aylward along for the ride launching the first issue of grOnk in january of 67  we ran them thru on a monthly schedule to august of 67 when dave uu moved west & grOnk went under wraps for a year   in september of 68 i started it up again   dave uu was still the most active co-editor with bill bissett & steve mccaffery in there in 3rd & 4th   we kept churning it out free right up to the present and mailing it out every four to eight months in big chunky envelopes which made for nice gifts of poems for people all 64 issues   anyway now times change  the frequency of grOnk as of this date (july 28 1972 is decreasing to make way for other projects   GANGLIA PRESS has served its function as a free information service to an audience of about 250 people…

And so, to inaugurate this series of blog posts on grOnk – and in the spirit of the gift economy that Nichol, UU and Smith had in mind – here is a pdf of the “Ganglia Press Index.” Scroll down to the bottom of the page on bpnichol.ca to download.

> See also bpNichol’s “Singing Hands Series”: Canadian Concrete Poetry 1966 (Part 2)

> See also grOnk magazine: first and second series 1967 – 1970 (Part 3)

> See also grOnk magazine: third series, issue 1 1969 (part 4)

> See also grOnk magazine: third series, issues 3, 4, 7, 8 1969 (part 5)