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Mary Ellen Solt

From Concrete Poetry: A World View (1968, Indiana University Press)

Two of England's experimental poets are Dom Sylvester Houédard and John Furnival. Both have developed the new poem along graphic lines. The keys of the typewriter under the fingers of Houédard become instruments for spiritual meditation. "Linga Chakra" is a meditative poem that takes the poet out of words into picture writing that conveys a-spiritual message. Semantic hints are given by the title.

Reproductions leave the impression that Houédard's "Typestracts" are made with a black ribbon, but this is not the case. He uses colored ribbons and carbons. The original of "Linga Chakra" is in blue and magenta. "My own typestracts," Houédard writes:

(so named by edwin morgan) are all produced on a portable olivetti lettera 22 (olivetti himself/themselves show so far a total non interest in this fact)

there are 86 type units available on my machine for use w/2-color or no ribbon--or with carbons of various colors --the maximum size surface w/out folding is abt 10" diagonal--the ribbons may be of various ages--several ribbons may be used on a single typestract--inked-ribbon & manifold (carbon) can be combined on same typestract-- pressures may be varied--overprints & semioverprints (1/2 back or 1/2 forward) are available--stencils may be cut & masks used--precise placing of the typestract units is possible thru spacebar & ratcheted-roller--or roller may be disengaged &/or spacecontrol disengaged. . .

typestracts--rhythm of typing--action poetry--as words grow on paper to see language grow--dictionary (convention as language-coffin--this word/poem means the WAY we use it--we (not them) convene its meaning--

Contrary to the opinion expressed by Belloli, Houédard believes the history of concrete poetry can be "pushed" way back in time: "its roots: the origin of all graphics--cave paintings pictographs ideograms alphabets hieroglyphs."

John Furnival, a graphic artist by profession, uses words and letters as elements of composition and structure in texts which are meant to be viewed as paintings or drawings, but they can be read in part as well. The Babel theme, which interests him most, has been realized in several large-size tower poems: the Tower of Babel, the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He has also constructed a Devil's Trap. "Ring around a rosy" uses as its central image the moebius strip, a curiosity of elementary topology. See the WORD GLOSS for a detailed reading of the text. Furnival edits Openings along with Houédard and Edward Wright.

Peter Greenham, also of England, has experimented with the phonetic poem somewhat in the manner of Ernst Jandl, using syllabic particles, whole words, or short phrases. A musician, he is particularly interested in the rhythmical aspect of words. Rather than to England, he traces his origins as a concrete poet to Vienna, where he lived for twelve years as a close friend of Gerhard Ruhm and the Vienna group. His first knowledge of Gomringer and concrete poetry came from this association. His concrete poems are written in English, although his other writings are in German, for he finds that language easier to handle where contemporary developments are concerned.

Although England cannot lay claim to having been in on the laying of the foundations of the concrete poetry movement, important exhibitions have been held there. We have noted the First International Exhibition of Concrete and Kinetic Poetry in Cambridge in 1964, organized by Mike Weaver. Another important comprehensive exhibition, Between Poetry and Painting, organized by Jasia Reichardt, was held at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, in 1968. The London TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT put out two special numbers on international avant garde poetry on August 6 and September 3, 1964.

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