grOnk magazine, fourth series: issues 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 1968-1971 (part 6)

I am nearly halfway finished digitizing the issues of grOnk magazine that Nelson Ball gave me. In this installment: the fourth series which includes work (from 1968 through 1971) by David UU, Hart Broudy, David Aylward, Joseph di Donato, Andrew Suknaski, and Earle Birney. Once again, given the unique materiality of all these pieces of varying sizes, shapes, colours and textures, I urge you to look at the originals wherever possible.

The first issue of the fourth series, David UU‘s (or David W. Harris) MOTION/PICTURES, was published in March 1969 in an edition of 300 copies. At this point, UU was a co-editor of grOnk along with Nichol and bill bissett. MOTION/PICTURES, sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper stapled together, is wrapped in a red card-stock cover featuring collage work by UU. Most curious for me is the copyright page which lists other books by UU, including poems published by Ganglia Press in 1966 which were “destroyed at authors request” and a collection AMERICANCROSS which was “suppressed by american authorities” in 1966.

The second issue features four gorgeous typewriter concrete poems – titled “C POEMS” – on cream coloured card stock by Hart Broudy. It’s not clear what year this was published. All poems (with the exception of the cover-art on the outside of the envelope which seems to have been made with letraset) have been constructed with the letter ‘c’, occasionally ‘l’ and a few punctuation marks.

The third issue is Earle Birney’s PNOMES JUKOLLAGES & OTHER STUNZAS which was published in November 1969 in an edition of 400 copies. As Nichol writes in the introduction to this collection of work by Birney, “this is an introduction to a section of earle’s work which has been termed ‘experimental’ by every review & critical article i’ve read.” Below is an image of “PNOME,” just one of twelve items in the envelope for this third issue:

The materials included in this envelope of work by Birney are so various that I decided to digitize them all separately. They are listed below in the order in which they are listed in the list of contents – take particular note of “SPACE CONQUEST: COMPUTER POEM” which Birney created in February 1968; “lines chosen from 1066 5-syllable lines supplied by a computer programmed to a random order of the words composing Meredith’s ‘Lucifer in Starlight’ and Macleish’s ‘End of the World.’ Printed on an IBM/360 Computer.”

The fourth issue is David Aylward’s concrete poem(s) THE WAR AGAINST THE ASPS, published in 1968 on sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper folded lengthwise.

The sixth issue features visual work (on single sheets of 8.5 x 11 card stock stapled together three times) by Joseph di Donato – work that is simply titled on the cover “gronkreadingwritingseriesnumber6.” I am speculating the work was created with a combination of drawing and letraset.

Finally, the seventh issue features Andrew Suknaski’s ROSE WAY IN THE EAST – hand-drawn, ideogram-inspired poems that were published in 1971 as single sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper in an envelope.

> 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: 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)

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

After taking a brief hiatus from digitizing the issues of grOnk magazine that Nelson Ball so generously donated to me, I’m happy to present to you here the rest of the third series of grOnk, published by bpNichol mostly throughout 1969. While there are eight issues in this series, I only have issue 1 (available here), 3,4, 7, and 8.

Issue 3 consists of Phone Book, by Gerry Gilbert, with a found prose insert (I assume also by Gerry Gilbert but, as jwcurry points out in a comment to this post, it could just have easily have been included by bpNichol. The Gerry Carrier was a brand-name for, of course, a carrier). Phone Book is a typewritten book of poetry published in association with Nelson Balls’ Weed Flower Press in 1969. The cover design is by the painter Barbara Caruso, with whom Nichol worked collaboratively on a number of occasions (the most stunning, beautiful example is, in my opinion, The Adventures of Milt the Morph in Colour).

Issue 4 is another typewritten, concrete poetry-esque collection: Nelson Ball’s Force Movements. The digitized version I’ve made available here is actually a second edition, slightly revised, that Curvd H&z published in November 1990. It was first published by Ganglia Press as grOnk 3:4 in July 1969.

Issue 7 is a long, narrow, typewriter-concrete poem Sprouds and Vigables by D.R. Wagner. It was published in an edition of 250, also in July 1969. Note that the text of the first poem echoes a later Four Horsemen sound poem, “In the Middle of a Blue Balloon,” from their 1973 album CANADADA.

Issue 8 is a short, untitled piece by John Riddell – like the others in the third series, this too is typewritten concrete but with the difference that here Riddell also explores, or explodes?, geometrical shapes and patternings which intersect and break up the typewritten language.

Finally, for the first time I’m also making available a pdf of the “BIG MID-JULY GRONK MAILOUT” – a kind of newsletter that accompanied third series issues 3 through 7. The “mailout”, three sheets of different coloured paper stapled together, includes an announcement about the third series, details on how to order copies, as well as bits of news about forthcoming pieces not only from Ganglia/grOnk but also Coach House Press, an issue of Stereo Headphones – a small journal published by Nicholas Zurbrugg in England that was about “THE DEATH OF CONCRETE” – and a series of cassette tape recordings by David UU. These mailouts are fascinating to me because they read as a bookbound version of an equally community-driven blog or twitter feed about contemporary, non-mainstream poetry and poetics.

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

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

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)

copier machine poetics

bpNichol’s Translating Translating Apollinaire is a series of typewriter poems, not simply poems written on a typewriter, Nichol wrote between 1975 and 1979. In its relentless exploration of homolinguistic translation, it has become something of a cult serial poem in certain experimental writing circles, spawning iterations such as Stuart Pid’s Translating translating translating Apollinaire and Andrew Russ’s Translating, translating, translating Apollinaire, or, Translating, translating bp Nichol (both from 1991). Writes Nichol by way of an introduction:

May 27th 1975 en route from London England to Toronto with Gerry Gilbert…in a mood of dissatisfaction re certain aspects of my writing (always the feeling there is more one should be learning – more limitations one should be pushing against & breaking down) i began this present series. In my mind was the idea of a pure bit of research one in which the creativity would be entirely at the level of the research, of formal inventiveness, and not at the level of content per se i.e. i recalled the first poem i had ever had published — Translating Apollnaire in Bill Bissett’s BLEW OINTMENT magazine circa 1964…& decided to put that poem thru as many translation/ transformation processes as i & other people could think of. I conceived of it as an openended, probably unpublishable in its entirety, piece. As of this date (August 29, 1978) i have elaborated 55 different systems & or results with TTA 16, 26, 27, 29, 31, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40, 41, 50, 54, 55 & some other tentative ideas still not fully executed. But it seemed a good point in time, particularly when Karl Young expressed his enthusiasm & support, to issue a preliminary report on discoveries made in terms of the results arrived at. Thus this present selection from the inevitably titled TRANSLATING TRANSLATING APOLLINAIRE.

(You can find the original version of the poem here along with the rest of the selection from The Alphabet Game).

I want to call them typewriter poems instead of simply poems written on a typewriter because it’s clear Nichol understood precisely the ways in which the grid of the typewriter page and the typewriter’s non-proportional font lend themselves to investigations of form – even form freed from the burdens of content. Not surprisingly Nichol’s entire oeuvre is defined by his experiments with the limits and possibilities of different writing media – to such an extent that I have become convinced that Nichol wasn’t simply reading his fellow Torontonian Marshall McLuhan (by the mid-70s, who wasn’t reading McLuhan? but as it turns out McLuhan was reading Nichol as evidenced by his inclusion in the General Bibliography at the end of his 1977 City as Classroom). But he was absorbing McLuhan’s writing wholesale. Before this week, I had only come across a few fleeting references to McLuhan by Nichol – one in Rational Geomancy and a short 1982 memoir Nichol wrote of him titled “The Medium Was the Message.” Several days ago, however, I obtained a copy of Nichol’s Sharp Facts: Selections from TTA26 and was astounded to read this series of poems that are both typewriter and photocopier poems – given his love of the pun, a love he also shared with McLuhan, not surprisingly one of his favorite photocopiers is the Sharpfax Copier. Writing as an experienced writing media technician, a mere two years before his McLuhan memoir, Nichol declares in the introduction:

The translative system involved here entails the use of…copying machine disintegrative tendencies. Which is to say that an image fed through a copying machine over & over again (feeding the image of the image, & then the image of the image of the image, & so on) thru a great many generations, disintegrates. & it does this differently depending on which type of copying machine you’re using.

And he concludes, “In this case the machine is the message. The text itself ultimately disappears.”

These are poems of the machine – poems that aren’t so much interested in their own illegibility as they are invested in reading, vis-a-vis writing, the typewriter through the copier machine.

media studies and the typewriter poem

Media studies is commonly associated with the study of digital media structures and related phenomena. But the more media theory I read (and lately I’ve been voraciously reading everything by Marshall McLuhan that’s outside of the well-worn Understanding Media) the more drawn I am to thinking through the defining effects of earlier analogue and digital writing interfaces as instances of media – from paper/pencil to typewriter to command-line. As such, I’ve been pursuing my interest in dirty concrete poetry – poetry I’ve written about here that courts illegibility and a kind of non-representationality as a way of drawing attention to the limits and possibilities of the typewriter as a writing medium. In that very small world of people who write about dirty concrete, Steve McCaffery’s “Carnival” is as well worn an exemplar as McLuhan’s Understanding Media. But, partly as a result of reading work by derek beaulieu (a contemporary Canadian visual poet who identifies with dirty concrete), I’ve stumbled upon the typewriter poems of John Riddell – a figure known, it seems, only to a handful of poets and critics in Canada.

Of Riddell I only know that he was McCaffery’s partner in his airport limo business as well as his housemate for a brief time; I believe he is now a lay therapist. Of his work, all I’ve so far seen is E clips E (Underwhich Editions 1989) – a startling book of concrete poems that reads like evidence of Riddell’s hell-bent mission to push writing media from xerography to the typewriter, the lettraset, stamps, cut-outs and cut-ups to the breaking point of legibility and interpretability. But that’s not to say they’re not comprehendable or meaningful – they are meaning pushed to another register, that may defy close-reading at the same time as they court a reading more properly sensitive to both its marks and the process of marking.

“coda” is, for me, one of the more intriguing pieces in the book – perhaps because it gives me more of an interpretative foot-hold than a piece such as “in take” does:

“coda,” on the other hand, has much more of what I can only call “alphabetic patterning”. Below is a scan just of first of this four page poem:

Still, it’s appropriate that the definition of “coda” is most firmly tied to music – an art, I learned from R. Murray Schaeffer, of notation as much as sound – not literature. I can’t help feeling the point, the meaning, is purposefully just a little out of reach. Yet, at the same time, I also feel sure there’s a pattern in those columns of text – on the upper left of the first column on the first page, ‘t’ and ‘f’ appear side by side yet it has clearly been written on a typewriter, on which ‘t’ and ‘f’ are diagonally stacked on top of each other, ‘t’ up and to the right, ‘f’ below and to the left. Likewise ‘b’, ‘u’ and ‘j’ are similarly slightly mis-aligned on the page versus their placement on the keys.

Surely this is a media-studies-inflected poem as I’m forced, for the first time since I learned to type in grade 8 (when I was punished for paying too much attention to the keys), to scrutinize the visual arrangement, the alignment of the typewriter keys in relation to their written characters. It’s typewriter poetry that rejects Charles Olson’s “Projective Verse” declaration that the typewriter can “indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspensions even of syllables, the juxtapositions even of parts of phrases, which he intends” while it relentlessly courts Olson’s claim that “For the first time the poet has the stave and the bar a musician has had.”