Kern: Something that you stare at

Tuesday 10th, March 2015 / 19:04
By B. Simm

KernCALGARY — Derek Beaulieu currently resides as Calgary’s Poet Laureate until April 2016. He’s written 16 books since 1997, teaches creative writing at both Mount Royal University and the Alberta College of Art and Design — at the latter a course called the Introduction to Narrative.

“Basically we’re doing screwball things with text and writing,” says Beaulieu. “We look at adventure books, graphic novels, punk novels… looking at all sorts of stuff to complicate what students see writing as. And to see how we are more in tune with our writing, how we approach text from day to day.

Kern is the best of Beaulieu’s “visual or concrete poems” that he’s been working on for the last couple of years published by Les Figues Press out of Los Angeles, a radical press dedicated to experimental poetry.

All of the poems in Kern are done with Letraset — dry transfer sets of peel off-rub down lettering made in England in the ‘60s that became popular world-wide with almost every one involved in arts and crafts classes to full-fledged design firms. When the Internet and the digitization of fonts took hold, Letraset was a dead technology.

Even though no one cares about it anymore, what fascinates Beaulieu is that it “gives you access to an entire foundry of fonts and type faces, and yet it’s an actual physical way of writing it. You have to rub each one down by hand, opposed to changing something on the computer.”

In addition, Beaulieu emphasizes its immediacy: “Once you put that letter down, it’s stuck! You can’t move it, you can’t peel it, you can’t edit it. It buys into what Alan Ginsberg said, ‘The first thought, the best thought.’ Once it’s on the page it’s done.”

Being in touch with how we approach text day to day, Beaulieu says Kern is full of poems you can instantly absorb. “They’re logos for possible businesses or imaginary bands. Then they start expanding into map-like screens that cover the page or aerial photographs of corporations that run our day.”

Stressing the visual quality of poetry, Beaulieu states the whole idea behind Kern, “is something that you stare at, not something that you read.”

To obtain a copy of Kern, email Derek Beaulieu.

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