Robert Grenier

'The Genealogy of Robert Grenier’s Drawing Poems' by Albert Gelpi

Imprint vol. 23 no. 1 (Fall 2004)
Published by The Associates of the Stanford University Libraries
republished with permission from the author and Stanford


Robert Grenier, CAMBRIDGE, M'ASS (reissue)

Convolution has just reissued this great 1979 poster, that should have won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and gotten Grenier a MacArthur too.  But it didn't work out that way. Robert Grenier’s poster-poem-map, originally printed by Lyn Hejinian’s Tuumba Press in 1979. 500 copies. 40”x 49”. Comes rolled in a tube. A steal at $30. It is ready to ship. Don't miss it this time around. Order here.

Some links to Grenier's 'Sentences'

Robert Grenier’s Sentences (1978, complete text) from Whale Cloth Press. In 2003, twenty-five years after its publication of the original edition of 500 boxed 5" x 8" index cards, Whale Cloth Press made available a web-based version of this crucial work. Before viewing the web version, please read the note on the web version of this poem.

Robert Grenier opening, Brooklyn, May 19, 2013

Robert Grenier, "Language Objects: Letters in Space, 1970 - 2013" at Southfirst Gallery, Brooklyn

Robert Grenier, #2 from Four Poems / February 2004 (MOON/IT'S/THE/RE).
Giclée print on Photo Rag Paper, 23 3/8" x 17 1/2" ed. 1/10

May 18 – June 30, 2013
Reception for (& presentation by) the artist, Sunday, 19 May 4 - 6 PM

Twenty-six boxes containing Grenier's 'Sentences' discovered

Whale Cloth Press recently announced the discovery (in a storage unit in Massachusetts) of a cache of 26 forgotten/‘extra’ copies from the original (1978) printing of Robert Grenier’s legendary work Sentences.

Sentences (500 poems centered on 500 5 x 8” index cards contained in a blue, folding, Chinese cloth box) was published in an edition of only 200 copies — all of which were distributed at the time of issuance, so that (though the text is often referenced in scholarly accounts of Grenier’s work & the history of Language Writing generally) the “thing itself’ has been out of print and unavailable for more than 30 years.

These 26 copies, newly lettered A-Z and signed by the author (in their original blue Chinese boxes), are in very good condition and are for sale to libraries and collectors for $1,000 (with the proceeds going to the author).  If you are interested in buying a box of Sentences, contact the publisher, Michael Waltuch, at waltuchm [at sign]

Robert Grenier

The ghostly presence of New England

Back in mid-March 2010, I traveled to Manhattan and met Charles Bernstein and Robert Grenier at the East Side apartment of Michael Waltuch, Grenier's old friend and collaborator. We recorded part 2 of what is now a long 2-part interview with Grenier about his early years. Part 1 focused on 1959-64, with a bit of a look back to Grenier's high-school years just before that period. Part 2 goes back a bit into the early 60s but then moves forward, covering 1965 to the early and mid 1970s. If last time the central topic was Harvard, this time the central topic, as it emerged, was New England: New England in the specific biographical sense (Bob G.'s wanderings there, especially on trips shooting outward from Harvard) but also in the meta-geographical sense--New England as a haunt, a crucial (it would seem now, in Grenier's way of thinking) ghostly presence in his thinking and in his writerly development.

We are pleased to release this second interview through PennSound - available, along with part 1 and many other Grenier recordings, on PennSound's Robert Grenier author page. It's a long recording (2 hours and 11 minutes) but I hope you'll find listening to it rewarding.

25 minutes talking about sentences

Today we are releasing episode 31 of the PoemTalk series. This one is a discussion of Robert Grenier's Sentences. Jena Osman, Bob Perelman and Joseph Yearous-Algozin joined me. I can't remember a more challenging project: to talk about this box of 500 poem-cards in 25 minutes?

Outside the box (PoemTalk #31)

Robert Grenier's 'Sentences'


Five hundred cards in a box: on each is typewritten a few words or phrases of poetic writing. This is Robert Grenier’s Sentences. Al gathered Joseph Yearous-Algozin, Jena Osman, and Bob Perelman to talk about this complex work. As Jena notes several times, there’s something odd about producing an audio discussion about a oral reading or performance by Grenier from a work that was and is so closely associated with a material text-object. A text-object that indeed has become famously central to people’s response to the writing in it. So one question immediately is on that count: by performing the work (and by doing so with such comic pleasure, and even, at times, with such schtickiness), is Grenier signaling to us that our focus on the object is misleading — that Sentences is meant to be always somewhat and variously unmoored from the codex book and the normally printed-on-page poem? All the PoemTalkers, led by Bob, want to discuss in some way how and why Robert Grenier always forces us to think about the most fundamental qualities and definitions of poetry. And surely this is good in itself.

In October 2006 Charles Bernstein interviewed Grenier for the “Close Listening” program. During that discussion Grenier reads from and discusses a few of the cards from Sentences, including “Bird / I wonder if I do,” a representation of birdsong that occupies the PoemTalkers for a few minutes and causes Bob Perelman to look back on his own critical effort to comprehend Grenier. In the second of a two-part interview with Grenier, Al, Charles, and Michael Waltuch discuss the actual construction of Sentences, a project in which Waltuch played a role. If you listen to the interview you’ll get to hear Waltuch and Grenier talk together about that moment.

The remarkable performance of a selection of cards from Sentences that serves as the basis of our PoemTalk discussion was given at the Poetry Project, at St. Mark’s Church, in New York, in April 1981. PennSound’s Grenier author page includes a full recording of that reading. One of the two excerpts featured in PoemTalk, the one beginning “CONCEPTS / they see us,” has been made available as an excerpt also on Grenier’s PennSound page.<--break- />

The poem is remembering me (PoemTalk #30)

William Carlos Williams


Two tried-and-trues among the short poems of William Carlos Williams, as chosen for our 30th PoemTalk by Robert Grenier, who has been thinking about his WCW for many decades. First the metaphorical anti-metaphor of ocean and plant in “Flowers by the Sea”:

When over the flowery, sharp pasture's
edge, unseen, the salt ocean

lifts its form—chicory and daisies
tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone

but color and the movement—or the shape
perhaps—of restlessness, whereas

the sea is circled and sways
peacefully upon its plantlike stem

And then, seemingly quite different but just as classic an instance of early modern condensation, “so much depends” (“The Red Wheelbarrow”):

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Charles Bernstein and Bob Perelman (Grenier once taught the latter poet at Berkeley, by the way) joined Al Filreis to speak with Robert Grenier about why and how he is always in the act of remembering these poems – or, as he puts it near the start of our talk, how the poems are remembering him. “Those words return,” says Grenier.

Al asks Bob P. and Charles to comment on the poetic relationship(s) between Grenier and Williams. Bob P. remembers Bob G. on Williams as fundamentally as Bob G. remembers his WCW. Grenier has always dwelled on the short vowel sounds emanating outward from “chickens.” It’s about farming and the social aesthetic and other big topics, but it’s also, says Bob P., about the patterning of words’ sounds. This was what Grenier had already taught us, years ago.

The group, prompted by Al, discusses the autotelism of “Flowers by the Sea,” and, for Charles, both poems have a “specific autonomy.” When Charles admiringly isolates the line “edge, unseen, the salt ocean,” he is put in mind of a Larry Eigner and of a possible lineage running through WCW to Eigner. He is implying there a place for Robert Grenier in that line, of course, since Grenier, at the time this session was recorded, was just then anticipating the publication of his four-volume edition of Eigner’s poems.

We discuss what WCW meant when he said of the more famous of our two poems that it was “the same as a thing of beauty.” The red wheelbarrow as locating a rewriting of Keats’ “Endymion”! “It an injunction,” says Grenier, “to pay attention to something because of its moral value. And it directs you to what is in the fact an image, in itself, as an image…. Words being composed as letters, as a composition of successive shapes. It only happens because of the conjured quality of the form.”

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