Ordinary language can hardly do justice to these poems by Derek Beaulieu. Utilizing signs, logos and slogans, these suggestive glyphs make for unprecedented concrete poetry. Beaulieu is a renowned member of the Poetry avant-garde and is currently the Poet Laureate of Calgary, Canada. In his author’s note, Beaulieu writes, “Kern is made by using dry-transfer lettering without the use of computers. Ubiquitous in graphic design, technical drafting, and advertising from the early 1960s to early 1990s, dry-transfer lettering was used in order to standardize graphic elements, eliminate the individuality of the artists’ hand, and speed up the creative process.” He constructs these poems without the help of plans or sketches, creating each one by hand a letter at a time. The resulting image-field created by Beaulieu is similar to an abstract painting and can even be called otherworldly. Marjorie Perloff says these poems, “present moments of poetic nostalgia for the signposts of a past that never fully existed.”
This book is the latest in Les Figues’s “Global Poetics Series,” and definitely carries on their reputation of pushing poetic boundaries. The book begins with simple logos and gradually evolves and explodes into complicated constellations. As the author writes, “These poems are the street-signs, the signage, and the advertising logos for the shops and corporations that are just beyond reach. They are not islands of meaning—semantic or corporate.” Similar to the “performative typography” espoused by Douglas Kearney, these poems present arresting images that transcend tradition or even description. Beaulieu “occupies the page in the same way that the Nike swoosh sits on a shoe, or how the neon overwhelms the Tokyo streetscape.”
A few views of “A Generative Library” (BDP Berlin, Jan 31 – Feb 28, 2015) which features my conceptual piece “The Plastic Cast”…
Books shape existence: some have been the teachers of our pasts, some have set the stage for how we have come to perceive our present, and some will be the guides to our future(s). There are the old, worn books we have read over and over throughout life; the books we wish we’d read and then there are all the potential, hypothetical books – the ones we dream about holding in our hands, and then there also those ones we can only hope will never materialize, those books of nightmares, impossible books.For the opening of the new Büro BDP we have asked former and future collaborators to contribute to a generative library, a collective curriculum for the past and future practices of BDP, the books that have and will guide us through our future. The range is telling, from the old and manhandled to the paperless PDF, the school book that offered clandestine secrets to active assistants in current research projects. With this opening gesture, we hope to establish Büro BDP as an active space for book research, publishing and indeed reading.
Jonathan Ball has reviewed Kern in the Winnipeg Free Press:
Derek Beaulieu’s Kern (Les Figues, 92 pages, $17) presents a suite of visual poems, crafted by hand using dry-transfer lettering, a non-computer process used “in graphic design, technical drafting and advertising from the early 1960s to early 1990s.” The resulting visual poems are intended by Beaulieu as “logos and slogans for… impossible businesses,” corporations that never existed, advertisements for inscrutable products.
While many of the poems seem precisely that, others sprawl like tentacled life forms — degraded, as if by age, rather than dated, frozen in a time that never was. Still others seem like maps of alien worlds, cities of language.
Beaulieu has a startling talent for producing letter patterns that seem somehow natural fits. Despite their stark artificiality, they seem somehow natural and inevitable. In this way, too, the poems operate like visual meditations on corporate transformation of our physical and psychic landscapes.
Oliva Niland at Neon Tommy
Conceptualized as a collection of fictional logos, some of the “Kern”’s poems vaguely resemble shapes and words, making their interpretations perhaps a bit less obtuse, but for the most part, the poems are somehow both tightly designed and utterly abstract.
Beaulieu, a poet, editor, publisher and teacher at the Alberta College of Art + Design, has created a book, printed entirely in black-and-white, which still manages to be immensely visually engaging. Rather than relying on words and color, as traditional poetry or artwork typically would, “Kern” relies on variations in font face, weight and size to create unique messages and movements with letters, and occasionally numbers. The pieces have no titles, but are arranged in a sequence that begins with the most sparse, minimalistic poetry, gradually developing into pieces which entirely overtake the book’s final pages.
Since the 1960s, writers have radically challenged the notion of originality and creativity in literature. They stopped writing new texts for their books and instead drew upon pre-existing books: canonical texts of world literature or intellectual history are transcribed by hand, edited, altered, alphabetically arranged or simply copied and republished under one’s own name. By now Appropriation Literature amounts to a critical mass that has generated its own tradition. The present anthology is the first to give an international overview of the phenomenon, presenting 126 books and projects by over 90 authors.
Annette Gilbert is a scholar in comparative literature at the Freie Universitaet Berlin and postdoctoral research fellow of the Volkswagen Foundation. Her main areas of research are experimental and avant-garde literature and art, materiality and mediality of literature, artists’ books, and interart studies.
I am proud as punch to announce that my Alberta College of Art and Design ENGL215 students have just published:
In Networks, nineteen undergraduate art students reply and explore the poetic implications of Jen Bervin’s Nets (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2004). Each piece is accompanied by a short statement of artistic intent, allowing each artist to expand upon visuality. In this volume each contributor explores the boundaries of their own expectations: finding connection in chance, situating their work in dialogue and defining their practice as existing without a net. Including work by: JADDA TSUI | RUI GAO | LEAH KINCH | AUDREY BURCH | JEMMA VAN OSCH | LUKE PITCHFORD | CHANTAL GERVAIS | LAURA PRITCHARD | WEHKWAS DEROCHER | JEREMY KIMMETT | SAMANTHA BROTHERS | LYDIA MUGAMBI | NATALIE APPLEBY | JESSICA STEPHENSON | AINSLEY DACK | JULIAN JANOVCIK | XU SUN | EMILIE-JUSTINE MACPHAIL | SHANNON LEARDO
Compiled and edited by derek beaulieu.
48 pages, full-colour, perfect-bound