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Klaus Peter Dencker
An Introduction

Klaus Peter Dencker belongs to the great tradition of visual poets whose approach includes an encyclopedic dimension. Such is the case with Ian Hamilton Finlay and Tom Phillips, to mention two members of the tradition perhaps more familiar to English speaking readers. A simple example of the encyclopedic approach is Dencker's ongoing catalogues of visual poets.

But more important in the context of this site is Dencker's encyclopedic approach as worked out in his visual poetry. The graphic elements in his poems recapitulate not only the iconography of Europe for several hundred years, but also in the process recapitulate the range of techniques used by artists and designers of all sorts. One of the great satisfactions for me in his work comes from the interplay of techniques collaged together. A simple aspect of this appears in different types of shading in the images, ranging from the cross-hatching, layering, and feathering of woodcuts and stone lithographs, to the gradations produced by photographic techniques for offset and rotogravure printing, to the gradations introduced by airbrushes and now by computer programs. This wonderful confluence of icons and graphic techniques finds a match in Dencker's approach to letters. A page of Dencker's poetry will probably include at least half a dozen type faces, and it seems an interesting bit of serendipity that living in Germany provides Dencker with Fractur type faces as well as Roman and sans serif faces. Just as important is Dencker's hand lettering, which adds a great deal to the interplay of letter forms in his poems.

Dencker often divides a page into zones, each assigned a contrasting subject - one zone, for instance, may involve work and another play. Both graphically and semantically, the major elements in a page function like the clauses in a sentence, and the pages in a section work much like a paragraph. Thus the phrases and sentences in his work not only carry their own significance, but each contributes to a larger lingusitic construct.

The first work in this section is a survey of Dencker's "Wort Koepfe," presented complete in reduced format. From the survey a reader can get a sense of Dencker's use of iconography and its interplay with letters. The first part of the work also appears in enlarged format so that the texts are clearly legible. [Click on the image for enlargement.] Perhaps as bandwidth widens and load time speeds up, we will include large versions of the complete work. For now, this presentation seems to provide a good introduction and survey to the work itself and to Klaus Peter Dencker.

- Karl Young

"Wort Koepfe"

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Introduction to Visuelle Poesie, 1965 - 2005
by Karl Young

From Concrete to Visual Poetry, With A Glimpse Into The Electronic Future
Essay by Klaus Peter Dencker

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