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Karl Young Bio Notes
Bio statements in magazines and anthologies present puzzles. I usually haven't been satisfied with those I've
written. I've seldom found those Iíve read interesting. If they've been informative, it has only been
because they've pointed me to a title or publisher or gallery I would not otherwise have found.
The web, however, gives me the opportunities to experiment. What happens, for instance, if the bio
statement can be a full bio, with examples of my other work and/or related work by other people and/or
comments from others?
Serious bio notes sometimes suggest obituaries to me. The fact that the information ends at the time
of publication reinforces this. Bio pages such as those I'm experimenting with can be updated. With
notes like this one, authors can report on reactions to the work in the anthology, magazine, or other
publication. If they want to tailor the bios to the publication, they can do so. I'm doing this with
links from bio notes in several publications at present. I may link them to each other.
I don't know how much information readers want. I'm beginning this one with a guess. I assume I'll
revise it as time goes by. Among other things, such revisions may suggest an optimum length and type of
material to include.
I'll write a specific biography for this page when I've received comments from friends and colleagues,
had a chance to see how it comes across to me over time, and find out how many people access it in relation to
several publications. Even if this page does no more than test how much a real bio note can bore
readers, we are still in a time to test possibilities in elecronic publishing rather than simply to
continue customs carried over from print. That I came of age in the 1960s, the era that prodcued memoirs
that apparently bore and/or annoy the largest number of readers may contribute to the experiment.
Presumably, I'll try other approaches to bio pages, and I hope learn a few things while having some
fun with the process, and produces something that readers can find useful.
Ironically or appropriately, I don't particularly like writing autobiography. I'm putting this on
line at a time when I've been prevented from doing the kind of work most important to me - from not having
access to a decent library where I could access the historical sources that provided me with the material
for my best, or at least most important, work; to not being able to engage in the kind of organization of
shows, readings, and performances; and in manufacturing, editing, and publishing magazines, anthologies,
books, and web sites that has been most essential to all my literary efforts, including my own writing; to
watching the web enter a phase that could negate its usefulness, while not having the resources to produce
books. During the last decade, I have used an autobiographical thread in essays to pull disparate material
together. Ignoring the means of production and distribution during th last four decades
has made literary and other artistic works
more and more ephemeral and hence more susceptible to becoming inherently alienated and alienating elements
in a consumerist support system for the literary equivalent of corporate uniformity and all the illusions that
make centralized totalitarianism seem natural and appropriate. I have always worked against this move into
abstraction. But my circumstances have been pushed back onto autobiography for some time both by my lack of
resources and my commitment to a literry and artistic environment which is not inherently, and with the rise of
mega corporations, ferociously, destructive to the production and knowledgeable use of everything from
books to arts organizations to web sites.
I'm not criticizing people who run blogs. But for me, I'd rather create forms than fill them in. Perhaps
this exercise in an author bio may suggest a means of starting a blog thatís less controlled by mega corporations
and more like the eccentric publications I've engaged in since 1966...
Some General Bibliographies and Related Lists:
Tentative Index of On-Line Work by Karl Young Up to 2012
Light and Dust On-Line Anthology of Poetry
Bringing the Text Back Home
Autobiography and at Least One "Big Arc"
However much my work is built of small parts, starting with letters or photographs or other
elementary components, I usually conceive of them as larger projects in advance or shortly
after beginning to tinker with them. Most often, a book is my basic unit of composition, and
I usually think in terms of books rather than pages. These books, even when they are relatively small,
tend to generate related essays, and to interconnect with other books and sequences of books. When
visualization is particularly important, in all types of strictly lexical genres as well as visual poetry
and audio notation, I have thought in terms of two page openings. Electronic reading and publication
may move me toward single pages - perhaps the process has already started.
Sequences of books, in turn, move toward what I call "big arcs." So far, only one big arc has
been completed. I began it in the early 1970s, and my first steps became a short book which I
separated from the big arc project which it initiated. Components of the project include two
books of extended visual poetry published in the 1970s, new translations which function as integral
components of th work's significance, an essay, and an autobiographical
commentary. It will include additional sections of reviews and work by other people who used my
original books as sources, but these are separate works in their own right, and not essential to
the big arc itself. The project reached completion in 2011, and can be found at:
Bringing the Text Back Home
Autobiographical Essays Related to My Work
I have begun several projects which integrate autobiography with literary criticism, art and cultural
history, comments on technology (including the nature of language and writing systems), and other genres
and issues. As previously noted, in most of my work, I try to create
interconnections and exchanges. In the last three decades, there have been times when I have had
limited access to source material. This has slowed down or stopped the kinds of projects that were most
important to me when I was younger.
One set, Leaf Mosaic, is a series of essays on the methods, evolution, significance, and
interrelation of some of my books and major projects. Here is a list of those which appear in draft
form on line:
Acoustic Books at the Beginning and End of the World
The Valence of Fragments
Vocabularies, Fractals, and Semiconductors
A Middle America Water Table
Chinese Dialogues and Couplets
Five Kwaidan: Ghosts and Sleeve pages
Books Printed by Walter Tisdale
Some Volumes of Poetry
on Publishing and Related Activities
As I worked on Leaf Mosaic, it occurred to me that I could use an autobiographical thread not only
to elucidate and expand my own writing, but that if I did something similar with books I had printed
or otherwise published; editorial projects I had conducted; Art Centers, events, shows, and other
entities and projects I had created or founded, instigated, or participated in, I could simultaneously write
about nearly everything involved in contemporary art and literature, and do so in a way that would
further my desire to integrate and interrelate arts and what goes into them. Few critics and
commentators have discussed the printing of books, even though one of the many meanings of the
popular phrase "material text" and the left-wing political background of many poets, neglect the
material production of books or the labor that goes into producing "material texts" in the most basic
sense of that phrase. Likewise, many critics have not commented on the way that poets read or perform
their work. Some of the interaction between artists makes good gossip, and I don't avoid that, but more
practical and less flamboyant situations may be as important. A literary and cultural history of the
milieu from which poems and related forms of art come enhances and makes accessible the work expands
the interactions between individual works, movements, and broader patterns of development and change
than most criticism involves. With these factors in mind, I began a series called
Some Volumes of Poetry. Whatís on line so far begins at:
This Index Page at Big Bridge Magazine
The introduction you go to when you click the image, goes into some detail about the purpose and
method of the project, as well as "triangulation," one of the conceptions that has been important
to me in criticism and publishing.
In my publishing efforts, I tend to concentrate on the people I publish. That usually means I publish
more than one book by each writer or artist, and often reinforce, elucidate, and expand its
potentials by writing criticism my self, generating criticism from other people, setting up readings,
producing audio recordings, and doing anything else I can to make the work fuller and more accessible.
This has meant publishing fewer people, but my basic feeling is that
presenting the work of a few people in depth helps build audiences, and expanding audiences is more
important than producing a few little nearly meaningless and highly forgettable tokens for a larger
number of writers.
The first part of the on line Volumes of Poetry was titled
1970s Outreaches. It included comment on:
solo books by Carol Bergé, Hilary Ayer, Kathleen Wiegner, Nathaniel
Tarn, and an essential project which started with Robert Filliouís 14 chansons et 1 charade, conventional translations into German by Dieter Roth and into English by George Brecht; then homoliguistic translations by Dick Higgins, bpNichol, and Steve McCaffery.
Books by bpNichol, and a collection of performance scores by him and the other members of the Four Horsemen performance group.
Books by Jackson Mac Low.
Books by John Taggart.
An account of how Pat Wagner and I created The Water Street Arts Center, parent organization to the still
functioning Woodland Pattern Book Center.
My Margins Symposium series. This began in Margins magazine, and continued in other publications after
Margins folded. I edited some myself, co-edited others, and commissioned others without participation or
interference from me. This spread of editorial involvements was part of my experiments with different
editorial approaches, the triangulation process, and, in some instances, the sense that the guest editor
was as important as the subject. Most of these have lasted in one way or another, and parts of them are
still in use. Most comments on Rochelle Owens written in the last decade and a half have cited
contributions to my symposium on her, often those I reproduced on the web. Ron Sillimanís symposium on
Clark Coolidge gets cited often Ė this includes Silliman himself saying it did more than anything else to
convince him of the importance of being able to write about contemporary work; the iconic study of
alternate publishing during the period, A Secret Location on the Lower East Side, it is listed as
one of the half dozen most important publications of 1977. For visual poets, the symposium on Tom Phillips,
Ian Tyson, and Joe Tilson would probably be most important.
Books by Martin J. Rosenblum, John Kingsley Shannon, and Toby Olson.
The first two magazines I worked on.
The second part is oriented toward mail art,
and hence particularly important to visual poets and those interested in it. The sections include an
essay on how d.a.levy introduced me to Lettrisme and mail art I produced from processes that made use
of specific and characteristic properties of the offset printing press I used to produce books in the
1970s and 1980s. Samples from an exchange of e-mail art between Reid Wood and me over a fourteen year
period. Commentary on stamp art by Rafael Jesus Martinez and anthology contributor Joel Lipman. Time
and the Mail Art Network — detailed chapter from a book of extended commentary. Correspondence Art
Solos and Choruses — commentary on solo and collaborative work by David Cole and anthology
contributors, K.S. Ernst and Marilyn R. Rosenberg. Survey of International Shadows Project: a major mail
art sub-genre that went on for at least a decade.
The third part deals with books by Michael
McClure and anthology contributors Michael Basinski and Karl Kempton.
The fourth part deals with unusual circumstances
and problems: Elder Books — as projects for elders, and as documentation. A description and
promotional essay I wrote for a program for troubled inner city teens, using the prestige books still
had before the days of print on demand. Art and real estate: how artists gentrify neighborhoods —
particularly important for everyone in 2010. Writing job recommendations as a literary genre — using
a recommendation for anthology contributor Joel Lipman as an example. Link to web memorial to my father.
After the fourth installment, I moved this project to Light and Dust. Bringing the Text Back Home was
the first part of the series at the new location.
Toward an Ideal Anthology
Circumstances have at time isolated me as far as my residence goes. And at times I have found it
important to work in solitude. Hence I have at times been labelled a recluse. This involves several
misunderstandings. The majority of my big arc pojects have involved some form of collaboration.
I have seldom gone for more than a year or two without engaging in editorial and publishing projects.
These have complex motives and methods behind them. They include the stimulous of working with other
people. The way woking with authors and artists gives me the opportunity to understand tehir work and
the options open to me in my own. According to William Blake, he who does not create his own
mythology is condemned to being enslaved by someone else's. The extreme conformity of literary
movements in the last decades has made it essential to me to propose alternate literary ecosystems to those
which others seek to impose. Giving those who have been excluded the opportunity to be read frees me as
well as them. Although I may be a dedicated contrarian, excess stubbornness can be as oppressive as
the demands for conformity different literary and artistic cadres impose. Generally speaking, the happiest
people I have met have been those who have focused a great deal of their time and energy on doing things
for other people. Outside the arts and a few special interpersonal relationships, I have felt most satisfied
working in community services and non or minimally prosyletizing political action.
However much conditions in the world call for outrage and resistance, both isolation
and combat cut you off from the satisfaction in and relief of getting out of yourself and taking part in
the activities of other people without trying to push something on them or expect a reward. And so on
through a long list that has constantly lead me back to editing and publishing, and that has made me miserble
when I have gone too long without this kind of activity. Despite the potential length of the list of
reasons for editing and publishing, the one I'd like to conclude with is the opportunity such activities offer
for experiment, invention, and exploration.
Although nothing has been more satisfying in this area than producing books as part of the editing and publishing
project, it would have been difficult for me to pass up the opportunity to explore electronic publication, begining
with simple BBS and FTP methods before the web opened up and going on line in 1994, as soon as it was posible
to do so. This gave me opportunities for producing the kind of anthology I could not have afforded in print.
may turn out to be the most important advantge for publishing of the last two two decades, even, paradoxicaly,
if it only last for a brief flash before the web turns into a means of manipulating us. My essential essay on
this flash in the progression of editorial projects I've engaged in can be found here:
Toward an Ideal Anthology
And my effort at constructing an ideal anthology can be found here:
Light and Dust
The "Ideal Anthology" essay will probably be the base of a series of considerations of anthologies, and not only the web's
capacities for extending the potentials of anthologies, but the limitations of electronic publcation. At the
moment, the benefits of the web seem to be collapsing and/or taken over by entities and phenomena as large and
diverse as the NSA, commercial exploitations, and problems adjusting to electronics on the part of writers,
their estates, and, indeed, potentially anyone involved in publishing or reading. Such problems may be temporary
and may, in the long run, stimulate invention. As part of my original conceptions translation and multiligual
presentation played important roles. This first addition maintains the optimism of the first essay:
Functions of Translation in The Ideal Anthology
— Karl Young
Return to Light and Dust
Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry