Gertrude Stein wrote at night; Alice Toklas transcribed during the day. In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Stein has Toklas observe: “As a matter of fact her handwriting has always been illegible and I am very often able to read it when she is not.”
Some Stein scholars might tell you that several of her manuscripts appear to be written in both Stein’s and Toklas’ handwriting, which has led to even greater contention and consternation about authorship. But I think I might tell you that just writing something down doesn’t make you the text’s author. I also might tell you that I’ve never understood the bother around whether or not Alice meddled with Gertrude’s work. Stein’s is a writing that delights in its reading, and Toklas was her most engaged, and most welcomed, reader.
Here is a video of me leading a forty-five-minute-long collaborative close reading of John Ashbery’s poem “Just Walking Around” at Friends’ Central School in December 2013 — with a group of parents, students, and teachers. The audio isn’t great, but turn up the sound and watch these people grapple with Ashbery’s love of being aimless and counterproductive!
derek beaulieu’s Prose of the Trans-Canada is an epic inscribed scroll, a graphemic saga as Odyssean and graphic a roadtrip as traveling the eponymous Trans-Canada highway. The 16” x 52” work is named after Blaise Cendrars’ monumental Prose of the Trans-Siberian (1913), a milestone in the history of artists books and visual poetry.
beaulieu writes that naming it after Cendrars' work, “places it within a continuity of engagements with the artist's book (as Cendrars' volume is considered an early progenitor of that form). Cendrars’ Prose of the Trans-Siberian was also a reply to the architecture of modernism: if 150 copies of Cendrars’ volume were placed end-to-end, the result would be the same length as the height of that symbol of Parisian Modernity, the Eiffel Tower.
Dan Waber’s Another Tool for Discovering your Favorite Letter (ATDFL) is an online interactive poem, a mandala-like, kaleidoscopic hallucinogenic roundabout tilt-a-whirl hurricane pinwheel rabbit's hole sawblade exploration of the letters of the alphabet and the keyboard.
You type a key and on the screen that glyph begins rotating. The up and down arrow keys allow you to control the opacity — how much of a visual trail the letters leave. The left and right arrow keys control the speed of rotation. And the space bar allows you to do that roller rink thing where suddenly, everyone — G, }, h, and * — skates in the opposite direction. There’s also an option for choosing the font. I think I might have a fontcrush on Times Roman h.