Wednesday, 4 January 2012

happy new year: books to go over with

Thanks to nearest & dearest, the Oceanographer is equipped for 2012 with:

Simon Garfield, Just My Type: a Book about Fonts (paperback Profile, 2011; first pub. 2010). Journalistic & anecdotal (classified as 'Reference / Humour' ...) but informative; and great that this subject is now popular.

J.H. Prynne, Kazoo Dreamboats, or, What There Is (Critical Documents, 2011). A prose, set in Song type, with a bibliography.

Jacques Rancière (trans. Steven Corcoran), Mallarmé: the Politics of the Siren (Continuum, 2011, first French pub. 1996). 'Mallarmé's problem is linked to the fact that the page is not only the material support of the poem, or the allegory of its obligation. It belongs to the very movement and texture of the poem. The surface of writing is the place of a taking-place.' p. 43).

Martin Rowson, Giving Offence (Seagull, 2009, 'Manifestos for the 21st Century' series). 'A cartoon that isn't knocking copy becomes merely propaganda' (p. 39). Rowson reveals how much hate you draw when you draw politics (Alastair Campbell's gratuitous foul-mouthery on merely seeing Rowson in the street is astonishing, p. 19). A beautifully made little volume by the Indian-based Seagull Books.

The first book actually read in 2012 is:

Susana Gardner, Herso: an Heirship in Waves (Black Radish Books, 2011), an innovative sequence full of wordplay and in a great range of registers and visual arrangements. Versions of parts of this exist in other forms including as an e-chapbook under Susana's wonderful Dusie project I like especially the near-anagrammatic 'Minarets'.

Finally, here are some more or less visual or material books & publishers from 2011 that we just want to say Hoorah to. (All the terrible omissions may or may not be repaired later ... the one thing learned over the past -- good heavens -- 5 years of this sluggish blog is that only by accepting radical incompleteness is it possible to proceed at all ...). In no significant order:

1. Les Coleman, Afterthunks (Boekie Woekie, Amsterdam).
Looking at so many 'normal' cartoons has finally brought me to appreciate the refinement of the absurdist drawings and miniature poetic utterances of Les Coleman, associate of Glen Baxter, Patrick Hughes and their hero Anthony Earnshaw (as per previous post). This little collection has a foreword by N.F. Simpson, no less; is very simply but perfectly designed (by Colin Sackett).

2. Laurie Clark, 100 buttercups (WAX 366, Fife).
(This is a very bad photograph of) a chunky white book (actually published in 2010) with nothing in it front to back but reproduced colour portraits of one hundred buttercups, one per page, and a minimal colophon. This is not a piece of trivial prettiness, it is an emotionally moving and very robust acknowledgement of the demand to encounter, life and the other. Published by the brilliant David Bellingham. Where would you get it? Try the Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, who have the 'special' ed (same, but with an original drawing) -- plus better images on their website.

3. David Miller, Black, Grey and White: a Book of Visual Sonnets (Veer, Birkbeck, London).

David Miller, visual sonnet, picture taken from the Veer website
One might wish higher production values for this very modest stapled pamphlet of beautiful brushed work, but Veer are doing more than any other British press at present for visual poetry. David Miller is a senior figure known predominantly for prose poetry and extended sequences (also writings on art, small press bibliography and other). This outbreak of visual sonnets is enormously consonant with his sensibility and yet very new, exciting.

4. Sean Bonney, The Commons (Openned, London).
More sonnets; all in words, in a perfectly commercially-viable little pocket format -- but done with the perceptiveness and style of everything undertaken by the Openned people. When did you last see a paperback in a hessian chemise -- with a badge! It is the coolest thing ever, and yet still somehow gritty, proper little press. Not to mention that Sean Bonney is now a poet of enormous maturity and depth as well as blistering energy and ideological venom (who has seen his Rimbaud versions issued too, this year, by the Association of Musical Marxists' new imprint Unkant, also in a surprisingly attractive style).

Sunday, 1 January 2012

casual sunny november post (unfinished)

'It is really very nice
to be in London on a sunny November day
and calling at Compendium to see Nick
who gives me nice new book by Fielding Dawson
(Jim Burns, 'Casual poem')
At the Oxfam book & music shop in Marylebone High Street, sunny Saturday 19th November: Jim Burns's The Goldfish Speaks From Beyond the Grave (Salamander Imprint, 1976), a collection of poems with Frank O'Hara's influence all over it, by a poet who used to be published in Grosseteste Review, and it's illustrated with cartoons, by Gray Joliffe (later creator of Wicked Willie, arg). Part of the poet's determined Preston working-class credentials? (the main theme of the book is being drunk (& divorced ...)). Testament to 1970s broadmindedness anyway.
Poems by Jim Burns, cover design and ills. by Gray Jolliffe. Salamander, 1976.
Cartoons are everywhere, Oceanside, these last few months, because of Private Eye: the First 50 Years at the V&A. Are cartoons like poems? are they a verbo-visual genre of distinction, like emblems? Many cartoons are essentially illustrated jokes, though clearly 'the drawing should make the reader smile', ideally 'even before he laughs at the caption' (Willie Rushton on Giles). Many cartoons avoid the caption by putting the language in the image, or in a speech balloon. I am most attracted to the purist idea that 'the best jokes don't have any words' (Nicholas Whitmore, in a great interview). Some even when 'silent', are inspired by verbal gags -- puns, or 'Martian' literalisations. E.H. Gombrich, in his essay 'The Cartoonist's Armoury' allies this both to the archaic practice of personification and to Freudian psychology, where it comes close to the Surrealist absurd, flavour of a few cartoons in Private Eye, including some of Ed McLachlan's earlier images, and the work of two brilliant deceased artists, John Glashan and Kevin Woodcock. In August I picked up a lovely Glashan book from 1961 at the Capital Bookshop, Cardiff (27 Morgan Arcade CF10 1AF).
John Glashan, The Eye of the Needle (Dobson Books, 1961)
The 'imp of Surrealism' in England was Anthony Earnshaw (also, like Jim Burns jazz afficionado from the north of England -- in Leeds he taught Glen Baxter among others), of whose work there was a wonderful retrospective at Angela Flowers (Kingsland Road) during September. Original artwork for his cartoon strip series Wokker, made with Eric Thacker, was wonderful to see.
Anthony Earnshaw, from Seven Secret Alphabets
Simon Key, from Private Eye 1288 (May 2011, after the Alternative Vote referendum). See also the artist's website