Gary Barwin

Outsourcery: biography by any other's name

kevin mcpherson eckhoff's 'Jumble' from his 'Their Biography'

Jumble (from Their Biography)
Jumble (from Their Biography)

A conversation with kevin mcpherson eckhoff where I speak in italics and he speaks in normal.


You didn’t even write this! You solicited participants to contribute to “their biography” of you. Or as you term it in the subtitle, “an organism of relationships amassed by and about the object often identified as kevin mcpherson eckhoff.” Maybe that’s a definition that works for literature or a poem: “an organism of relationships amassed by & about the object often identified as [literature or poem]. Except there’d have to be something about end rhymes and the soul.

The end of the soul is synonymous with exceptions. Synonyms are a kind of rhyme. Relationships dynamic create errors of within, and this betweenness of everything is a reality field of meaningful electrons. As a human invention, poetry mitigates such betweens. I suspect bpNichol may have seen poems as such halfway points. The not-quite-you plus not-quite-me is what breathes within the enclosures of words. Words are actions. Actions alone won’t save us. Redemption isn’t a hidden MEaning or a hidden YOUaning, but an ever-apparent WEaning. Spoiler alert: I cheated & read ahead! 

Fabulist of the surface

Márton Koppány and the shimmer of meaning

Packing: for Anne
Packing: for Anne

Márton Koppány’s deceptively simple images, are comprised of the small visual symbols of our modern life: yes, ellipses, quotation marks, and speech balloons, but also everyday objects such as a chair, a fish, some sunglasses. But he doesn’t attempt to represent these things, but rather presents simple photographs of them. It’s our clipart-world, our JPGscape. And these images — from the language of words or the language of visuality — play together on a flat field comprised of simple unmodulated colours. They live in that unhurried purgatory of the semantic present, living out the relationships of unworried signs in an semiotic utopian playground without hierarchies.

Beyond the (fl)oral tradition: Folk art, Hungarian, and the visual poem

Helen Hajnoczky's 'Magyarazni'

from Helen Hajnoczky's Magyarazni
from Helen Hajnoczky's Magyarazni

The name of Helen Hajnoczky's current project, Magyarazni, means ‘to explain,’  but translates literally to mean ‘make it Hungarian.’ Magyarazni is comprised of 44 visual poems based on Hungarian folk art, one for each letter of the Hungarian alphabet. Each visual poem is accompanied by a poem written in English, each titled with a Hungarian word beginning with the letter in the accompanying visual poem.

Helen spoke with me about Magyarazni.

GB: I’m intrigued by how this work engages with issues of art vs. decoration, artist vs. artisan, and handiwork vs. print.

HH: Though many people who create folk art are talented, skilled artists, folk art is at the same time something that lay people can confidently engage with and participate in. Some very charming folk art is not perfect, but contains irregularities that reveal the hand of the artist. This is certainly the case with my work. I am not skilled at drawing, but I don’t think that fact precludes me from making interesting folk art. One of the things I find appealing about making contemporary folk art is that you can draw from a broad set of existing designs to use in your own work. Making folk art does not demand that you be completely innovative.

Inking outside the fox: type writing itself

'MITSUMI ELEC. CO. LTD.' by Eric Schmaltz & The Plastic Typewriter by Paul Dutton

Eric Schmaltz Text from Mitsumi Elec. Co. Ltd.
from Mitsumi Elec. Co. Ltd.: keyboard poems

Barney and Betty Rubble go to the Grand Canyon and send a postcard back to Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Fred and Wilma aren’t too impressed by the canyon but think the notion of a ‘postcard’ is a pretty neat idea. (I read this in a poem long ago. Unfortunately I can’t find the source. Send me a postcard if you know.)


Over the years, the typewriter has been important for visual poetry. For example, Dom Sylvester Houédard’s typestracts. Or Steve McCaffery’s monumental Carnival.

What kind of [sic] sense is that?

Amanda Earl & the synaesthesia of reading

C-Horse by Amanda Earl

Much of Ottawa poet Amanda Earl’s work is grounded in the sensory. The transensory. Color. Shape. Body. Touch. Looking. An A is a blue. Monday is cerise.

She writes: “I have grapheme synaesthesia, which in my case means that the alphabet, numbers, months, days & some names evoke colour for me.”

C-Horse: the rich modulation of colour. From sunflower yellow to saffron and amber.