Sunday, 8 June 2008


Yesterday morning at Emma Hill's Eagle Gallery in Farringdon, an exhibition of artists' books, BOOK THINGS AND WORD WORKS. My favourite thing was Victoria Bean's 'Helvetica Poems', pairs of punctuation marks presented with 'lenticular lenses', enabling (or enforcing) the view to flip between them, e.g. a pair of angle brackets; square and round brackets (as Adam and Eve); a twinkling asterisk-star. Etc.

These reminded me of Stuart Mills's 'Poems for My Shorthand Typist', currently on show at the V&A in Certain Trees, consisting of single punctuation marks:
the sea-horse's poem: ?
the canal's poem =

Emma Hill publishes artists' books too, the latest being a book of poems by Jonathan Ward with single-colour, loosely-geometrical lino-cuts by Andrew Carter. The images are attractive, with a loose minimal geometricism. The poet gave a reading. The work seemed decent and relatively unpretentious apperceptions of family life and landscapes. Gave rise to reflections on the potential virtue of plainness, restricting linguistic effects to those found in ordinary speech of some middling sort, thus going straight for 'sulphur yellow' (heron), 'electric blue' (kingfisher), narrative of one's own sensations ('I close my eyes' -- rarely a good idea) etc. etc. I liked an extempore and unwitting move into Gomringerian concrete, uttered between poems:
those people
those people and those places
those people and those places and memory

Thence to the Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia. Focussed on non-London, and preferably non-British exhibitors, spending the longest time with Solstices, from Lille: modernist and surrealist artists' books, art exhibition catalogues. To die for: Hans Arp & Sophie Tauber's Muscheln und Schirme, their first collaboration: his poems, her drawings; typeset by Jan Tschischold. Sort of prefigured Gomringer's Constellations in Futura, with minimal drawings by Max Bill. Way out of my price range.

But I did fall for something else: Le Mirivis des Naturgies, poems and texts in a kind of French zaum by André Martel, written out in capitals, with lots of exclamation marks; and full-page abstract textural illustrations by Jean Dubuffet. Published by the College de Pataphysique in 1963 it is a photographic reproduction of a de luxe version with coloured lithographs, but this small black & white version is absolutely beautiful.

Henry Sotheran's antiquarian booksellers are nearly 100 years old. Their latest catalogue is a William Blake collection, much of which is on display on the walls of their downstairs room till the end of June.