A History of Visual Text Art
a history of visual text artis a gargantuan overview of visual poetry and text art from visual poet karl kempton,
who draws on a vast/curious knowledge of the marks made by humans on stone,
parchment, paper, canvas, in neon, onscreen... through millennia.
karl kempton’s a history of visual text is one of the very few overarching views of a fasci-
nating terrain: art as language, poems for the eye. His account begins with newly-avail-
able prehistoric evidence, finds paths through complex clusters of religious and political
influence across the globe and then moves into a long review of the 20th and 21st Cen-
turies, from the Russian Avant Garde to the Stieglitz Circle, Concrete Poets to Conceptual
Art, Word Painting and Iconographic Painting, and beyond.
The book is unusual for its insistence on thoroughly re-looking, to find nuances and practi-
tioners who had been ignored. So we have Barzun’s story, more than Apollinaire, we have
Theosophy and Platonism in the lineage, alongside Mallarmé, we have the seers aligned
with the art stars and scholars.
Crucially, kempton tilts his perspective throughout to include non-Western narratives, and
details the affect of spiritual practices — particularly Buddhist Ch’an and Zen, Sufism and
from American First People — on the gestation of language arts. He follows complex
bloodlines from rock art to religious texts to temple murals to individual enlightenment.
He embraces the work of ancient and contemporary Arabic word painters and First Peo-
ples’ Iconographics, their relation to other spiritual traditions and to artmaking.
In doing this, kempton allows us to re-see ourselves; familiar shapes become new again.
For example, his own deep involvement in Vendanta, bhakti yoga and other disciplines, in
the USA, means his account of the Beats and the visual poetry and art that emerged as a
result of Patchen, Ginsberg, Snyder, et al is given fresh detail and depth.
A sequence of visual poetic works from contemporary practitioners illuminates the book
— works from Liz Collini, Philip Davenport, Steve Giasson, Ali Haider, Bruno Neiva, Bin
Qulander and Dawn Nelson Wardrope. A sequence of letters from the poet and icono-
graphic artist Márton Kóppany interrogates the book and its ideas. The book contains
over 1000 hot links to a wide spectrum of online examples.
The book is also illustrated by a parallel blog, Synapse International, which gathers works
from visual poets and text artists across the globe.
This ebook is published by Apple Pie Editions, as a prequel to The Dark Would anthology
of language art published by Apple Pie in 2013. The PDF version is a free virtual “object”
and we would be very happy for you to share it with anyone you think might welcome
such a thing, especially as an educational or research tool...
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poems about something & nothing
Visual Poet Karl Kempton has completed a major opus encapsulating his career in poetry and black and white visual poetry from the early 70’s to current. This is the best way to introduce new readers to some of Karl Kempton’s most fascinating work in a single volume.
poems about something & nothing glows in the dark. Kempton writes with a deep reverence painfully missing from most modern poetry. His poems, both the lexical and the visual, are stunning…the way lightning is stunning or the aurora borealis as it rises in the magnetic midnight. These are spare and elegant poems, as ancient in form as “that flood of light that melts the ego.”
— Dian Sousa SLO Poet Laureate, author THE MARVELS RECORDED IN MY PRIVATE CLOSET
The superlative visual images and striking poems in this marvelous collection voice questions beyond the realm of language, devoting words of unbending compassion towards jarring your mind, arousing your heart, and alerting your eyes to the momentous flow of time in the throat of your hourglass. This book prompts us to release the “e” in “ego,” and discover the “o” in “go!” Essential reading for all!
— Karl Jirgens editor RAMPIKE
This new collection includes terse, meditative lexical poems, and gems of refined and strikingly beautiful visual poetry, where as little marks as an unexpected bracket, a deleted letter or a rotated comma, make a big and refreshing difference.
— Marton Koppany editor KALLIGRAM
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Rune 2: 26 Voices / January Interlude
Typewriter/Bird in the Bush, 1980
Rnue 10: Rose Windows
Runaway Spoon Press, 1999
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deep square wave structure
pdf reissue of typewriter lexical / visual poems
Rune 12: Dream of the Cross
Dream of the Cross translated by Karl Young
found in R-12's rendering
Rune 18: Rose Windows for the Cathedral of the Chewed,
Scarred and Discarded
Rune 18: vedic space, string theory
and the eternal knot
one page published in print
others on the web
1. unlikely stories
2. otolith 37
3. otoliths 38