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Karl Young Vis Po Bio Notes


Bio statements present puzzles. I usually haven't been satisfied with those I've written. I've seldom found those Ive 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 sugget an optimum length and type of material to include.

I'll write a specific biography for this page when I have a few other deadlines out of the way and can work on several bio pages like this one, but for different types of publication, at the same time.

Presumably, I'll try other approaches to bio pages, and I hope learn a few things while having some fun with the process, and producing something that readers can find useful.

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, and work toward books soon after beginning a project. These books, even when they are relatively small, tend to generate related essays, and to interconnect with other books and sequences of books.

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 (including one by a contributor to this anthology, Márton Koppány), 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 itwself. The project reached completion in 2011, and can be found at:

Bringing the Text Back Home

Leaf Mosaic
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

Minimalism's Expansions

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

Beginning Milestones

Some Volumes of Poetry
Autobiographical Essays
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. What’s 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. By the 1980s, I was working more or less in tandem with Karl Kempton on visual poetry – his Kaldron magazine published a few examples of a much larger selection of visual poets. Our efforts complimented each other. (Later, we combined approaches on the web.) In the 1970s, I published some of my own visual poetry, and did a few solo books of visual poetry by other people. But my main effort in publishing visual poetry was concentration on bpNichol and Jackson Mac Low. It was important to me that both were profoundly engaged in sound poetry and performance arty.

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 Filliou’s 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 Silliman’s symposium on Clark Coolidge gets cited often – 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

In another version of this extended bio note, I'll write some autobiography specifically for the ocasion. I'll make a list of my on-line work. And I'll make a list of the visual poetry by other people which I have published and about which I have written. But for now, I want to see how this list of autobiographical comments, written for other occasions and other purposes, works.

I can't however, end without this link to an essential essay, which has a few autobiographical elements in it. One of the ideas these notes embody is the exansiveness of the web, and the way it can move away from limited space and the limited editorial ideas that go with that limitation. That may turn out to be the most important advantge for publishing of the last two two decades. My essential essay on editing can be found here:

Toward an Ideal Anthology

And my effort toward constructing an ideal anthology, including sub-sections for several types of visual poetry, can be found here:

Light and Dust

— Karl Young


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Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry