Poetry in Motion: The Typewriter Poetry of Gustave Morin

March 2, 2016

Taking concrete poetry to a uniquely techie form, poet Gustave Morin has devoted himself to experimenting with the possibilities poetry through type, specifically, typewriter type. The result – the 2015 collection  Clean Sails – is a dazzling flurry of typewriter glyphs (some hand-modified by Morin) creating familiar shapes and intricate patterns. Learn more about Morin's journey, his manifesto, and check out some of the poems from Clean Sails.

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Taking concrete poetry to a uniquely techie form, poet Gustave Morin has devoted himself to experimenting with the possibilities poetry through type, specifically, typewriter type. The result – the 2015 collection  Clean Sails – is a dazzling flurry of typewriter glyphs (some hand-modified by Morin) creating familiar shapes and intricate patterns. Learn more about Morin's journey, his manifesto, and check out some of the poems from Clean Sails.

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cleansails

Gustave Morin has dedicated the past quarter-century to expanding the possibilities of typewriter poetry. He's published several books and countless chapbooks, pamphlets, and assorted ephemera, and his work has appeared in (most recently) The Art of Typewriting (Thames & Hudson, 2015); The New Concrete (Hayward, 2015); Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology (Laurence King, 2014); and recent issues of Geist, The Capilano Review, Rampike, and CAROUSEL

The pieces in Clean Sails were composed through untold thousands of hours of typing and experimentation over five years, using two-dozen typewriters from around the world, some sporting keys that Morin modified by hand. All the non-poem material was set by hand and letterpress printed before being digitized for mass production. 

Clean Sails also contains a long-ish essay about Morin's development as a concrete poet ("Konfessions of an Expanded Typewriter Poet") and a one-page manifesto of sorts ("when birds turbine, knacker squirms: a note on concrete poetry"), drawn from a 2013 interview with Mike Borkent (the entire interview is in the Fall 2015 issue of The Capilano Review), and excerpted below, in Morin's original uppercase-averse style: 

i'm all for pushing poetry; sometimes its lazy and needs a good shove
i’m all for events and for horizons; but also for event horizons. i’m also all for the frontiers, and for the people who come to chart them, defeating the anxiety of their influence. what to get out of any exploration is what we think we’re looking for, otherwise we wouldn’t explore anything.
when the conceit of communication as useful activity is removed, or at least temporarily lifted, i think what’s left is the little haunted house that poetry is permitted to occupy. obviously poetry, in our post-post-modernity-what-the-fuck-clusterfuck, finds itself in a ghettoized space, socially, politically, economically. making more inviolate my own particular ghetto has been one of the aims of my own concrete. that is, not only constructing the forms themselves but bodily defending the actual space these unauthorized formations require to stand. gainsay who dare...
when concrete poetry is dismissed as being ‛the t.v. of literature,’ as it has, i’m left with some hope for the future of literature. people at least still know what t.v. is, and they haven’t forgotten that they like it.
what i think i’m after, very simply, is to see something i’ve never seen before. and i want to write the books i cannot find in the library, just like eric blair. it’s really terribly simple. and painfully real.

And here are some examples of his painstakingly constructed typewriter poems:

cleansails1

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Clean Sails the video (2015), by Jarrod Ferris and Gustave Morin.

 

Gustave speaking at the release of The Last Vispo Anthology: Visual Poetry, 1988-2008 (2012).

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Thanks so much to Mike at New Star for sharing  Clean Sails with us. For more Poetry in Motion, click here.


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