Not every writer is able to create art out of their work, but then again not every writer is trying to. Then again, a lot of writers out there are not trying to, but those who create concrete poetry seek out to do exactly this. Not writers in the strictest sense of the word the concrete poets use words as their building blocks to create a specifically visual form of poetry wherein words and letters operate together to evoke feelings, just as painters use color or musicians use tones. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of the form, but I know some of the work of Dom Sylvester Houédard, an Oxford-educated Benedictine monk who, besides from creating fascinating visual poems, wrote commentaries on the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart, corresponded with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and was the literary editor of the Jerusalem Bible. Mr. Houédard used his “typestracts” (as he called him) to meditate and explore ideas which he also encountered in his studies of Eckhart and the zen poet Basho. Based on how much of his work can be seen with a simple search it certainly seems that monastic life agreed with the artistic impulses of dsh (as he often signed his work). The most impressive aspect of dsh’s work is how he was able to coax shapes and designs out of the typewriter’s characters, making is difficult to see what how exactly he was able to create many of the forms of his work and how, through this, he is able to make a visceral poetry that is graceful above all things – just as one would expect from a man who lived his live studying and spending time contemplating the deeper things of life.
I have leafed through Notes From the Cosmic Typewriter, Ed Nicola Simpson’s 2013 account of the life and artwork of this amazing man. I’m looking forward to picking it up so I can learn more about him and see much more of his work. Please enjoy some of his work below: