quotes from Monday August 8th

A fellow poet has written of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s works on paper the following: “The point is to give the reader a shock not of recognition but of cognition, which is much harder and much more valuable.”

Poet Charles Olson on the typewriter and “projective verse”: Charles Olson’s “Projective Verse”: “It is the advantage of the typewriter that, due to its rigidity and its space precisions, it can, for a poet, indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspensions even of syllables, the juxtapositions even of parts of phrases, which he intends.”

Poet Aram Saroyan on using the typewriter: I write on a typewriter, almost never in hand…and my machine – an obsolete red-top Royal Portable – is the biggest influence on my work. This red hood hold [sic] the mood, keeps my eye happy. The type-face is a standard pica; if it were another style I’d write (subtly) different poems. And when a ribbon gets dull my poems I’m sure change.”

Poet Dom Sylvester Houedard on using the typewriter: “my own typestracts (so named by edwin morgan) are all produced on a portable olivetti lettera 22 (olivetti himself/themselves show sofar a total non interest in this fact) there are 86 typeunits available on my machine for use w/2-colour or no ribbon – or with carbons of various colours – 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.”

Poet Ronald Johnson on using the typewriter: “As I am unable to think except on the typewriter, my poems have been, from the beginning, all 81/2″ x 11”. This is not only misunderstood by the printers, it is ignored. And if one should happen to bring it to their attention they say – do it yourself. So I have. I have begun to make my own letters and to think in ink.”

Poet and publisher Dick Higgins on Marshall McLuhan and the typewriter: “As McLuhan says, you can’t make the new medium do the old job. The information in a new poem can’t be the same as the information in an old poem…What interests me now is that new poetry isn’t going to be poetry for reading. It’s going to be for looking at…I mean book, print culture, is finished.”

Henri Chopin in 1969 on concrete poetry: “1968 was the year when man really appeared. Man who is the streets, HIS PROPERTY, for he alone makes it…Yes, 1968 saw this. And for all these reasons, I was, and am opposed to concrete poetry, which makes nothing concrete, because it is not active. It has never been in the streets, it has never known how to fight to save man’s conquests: the street which belongs to us, to carry the word elsewhere than the printing press. In fact, concrtete poetry has remained an intellectual matter. A pity.”

Jean-François Lyotard on postmodernism: “I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.”

Roland Barthes on the death of the author: “To give a text an Author” and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it “is to impose a limit on that text.”


I am an Associate Professor of English and Intermedia Arts, Writing, and Performance at the University of Colorado Boulder. I'm the author of Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound and co-editor of the Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media.

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