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crystal goblet



I know in a post a couple of weeks ago reference was made to Beatrice
Warde's typographical sensibility. I recently spotted the following, which
is the opening paragraph to "Synthetic Sensibilities: New Work in a Long
Tradition," by Johanna Drucker, which serves as the foreword or introduction
to T:CORTEXT: A SURVEY OF RECENT VISUAL POETRY, the catalogue of an
exhibition at the Hermetic Gallery in Milwaukee last August/September which
was curated by Bob Harrison and Nicholas Frank. I think Johanna's sense of
the importance of typographic innovation is true not just with regard to
visual poetry. But I also think of visual poetry as directly related, if not
part of, the book arts, and it seems like a part which does not get much
discussion on this list. For anyone who might want the catalogue, the
address of the Hermetic Gallery is 828 E. Locust, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
53212, and its phone number is 414-264-1063.

Here is the first paragraph of the Drucker essay:

The well-respected early 20th century historian of typographic design
Beatrice Warde once wrote a now famous paper titled "The Crystal Goblet" in
which she advocated an approach to typographic design in which choices about
type style, size, layout, and format efface themselves from the reader's
notice. The gist of her position was that design should serve up the text
with all the graceful self-effacing efficiency of a well-trained butler
setting exquisite food before guests paying attention to anything but the
service. The classist bias of such metaphors aside (my butler experiences
have been strictly limited), I for one am grateful that in the course of
human history a whole host of brave souls have been willing to risk literary
and typographic ostracism by transgressing these rules of fine design (and
poetic) behavior in favor of making innovations in the visual form of their
poetic work. Such innovations can be conveniently grouped under the vaguely
defined but useful rubric of "visual poetry."

In addition, Karl Young contributes a remarkable afterword (titled AFTER
WORDS) to the exhibition catalogue, addressing cognates of visual poetry,
specifically tagging, mail art, and book art. The last two and a half pages
of his essay specifically address book art and should be of interest to many
on this list.

charles alexander


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