Stuff: The Look of Poetry

This exhibition brings together works that draw attention to the look and texture of print and writing. A celebration of the expressive possibilities of inscribed material, it explores the relationships between literature, typography, the visual arts, sculpture, bookmaking and printing.

Some poems arrest the eye with manifestos against tradition. Others more gently investigate relationships with inheritance. The eye moves from writers and artists working in collaboration to figures whose aesthetic visions have been heatedly opposed. 'Stuff' draws together poetries that suggest correlations between artistic movements, literary groupings, and contexts of creative practice.

CASE 1: TROUBLED WATERS: CIRCLE AND SOURCE explores the relationship between early twentieth-century innovations in Soviet typography and Scottish and English poetry post-1960

CASE 2: LINES OF FORCE: ENERGY AND MOTION brings together reconfigurations of the printed page from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. Changing conceptions of place, technology and artistic production are seen in the energetic use of line, letter, image and decoration

CASE 3: MINIMALIST MATERIALS explores different poetic organisations of space. Some works hint at erasure and absence, others at touch and handling. Many use marks and lettering to conduct the breath, ear and eye. Concision enables them to be registered as image, object and text

CASE 4: MAKING NONSENSE traces the physicality of setting and printing poems and images. On display are Edward Lear’s woodblocks, from which his images were printed. Lear’s blocks were recently acquired by the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading. The type was handset by Martin Andrews

‘ALL-PURPOSE ELEGY’ is a sonnet written by Don Paterson and installed by the artist Julie Roberts in three-dimensional space within the Special Collections staircase hall exhibition space.

This exhibition will be on display at the Special Collections Service from 27 March - 27 June 2013.

The exhibition is one of two organized to coincide with the first Reading Poetry Festival, 5-9 June 2013, and was curated by Natalie Pollard, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Reading. The other exhibition, A Poetic A-Z of Reading, will be on display at the University Library from 7 March until 28 May 2013.

This exhibition has been supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

List of exhibits


1. Edwin Morgan, Wi’ the Haill Voice: 25 Poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky (Carcanet Press, 1972); translations from El Lissitzky and Mayakovsky For the Voice (Berlin, 1923) On loan from the Scottish Poetry Library

2. El Lissitzky, typographical work from 1920s, including advert for The Isms of Art (1924), in Typographische Mitteilungen: Special Issue, 1986. On loan from a private collection

3. Ian Hamilton Finlay ‘4 sails’ (Stonypath: Wild Hawthorn Press: ‘4 Sails’ (c1967); ‘4 sails’ poem-card with Edward Wright (Wild Hawthorn Press and Chelsea College of Art, c1969). On loan from a private collection

4. Set of 6 collaborative poem-cards, produced for the Brighton Festival in 1967. On loan from a private collection

5. dom sylvester houédard typewriter poems, to Ian Fletcher at Reading (1963) UNIVERSITY OF READING MS 4457/605 (24-25) 1951-80 Box 1


6. Carlo Carra, Lucien Bernhard, Ardengo Soffici and Filippo Marinetti, in 20th Century Type, by Lewis Blackwell (London: Lawrence King, 1998). On loan from a private collection

7. William Morris, frontispiece to News from Nowhere (1890) in Ray Watkinson, William Morris as Designer. MARK LONGMAN LIBRARY--741.5092-MOR/WAT

8. Jessica d’Este & Phil Cleaver, Love Song Cycle (London: 1978) On loan from a private collection

9. William Blake, The Book of Thel, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (London: Vale, 1897). RESERVE--821.69-BLA

10. Adam Sowan, Where Two Rivers Meet, illust. by Peter Hay, designed by Pip Hall (Reading: Two Rivers Press, 1994). On loan from a private collection

11. Iain Sinclair, Lud Heat: A Book of Dead Hamlets May 1974 to April 1975 (1975; London: Vintage, 1995). On loan from a private collection



12. Laura Drever and Lesley Harrison, Ecstatics: A Language of Birds (Orkney: Brae, 2011)

13. Drew Milne, Tome (Rugby: Holbeche Press, 1996)

14. Ian Hamilton Finlay, ‘Pastoral’, after Thomas A. Clark (Wild Hawthorn Press, 1997)

15. Thomas A. Clark, Laurie Clark, ‘vowels & consonants’ (Fife: Moschatel Press, 2008)

16. Don Paterson, ‘Unfold’, Rain (Faber, 2009)

All items on loan from a private collection


17. David Bellingham, ‘New Year, 2013’, WAX366

18. Alec Finlay, mesostic tea, ‘Da Hong Po’ (2013)

19. John Cage, mesostics after Erik Satie, in John Cage Writer, ed. R. Kostelanetz (New York, 1993) University Library 780-CAG

20. Tim Atkins, 1000 Sonnets (Manchester: if p then q, 2010)

21. Stephen Bann, Field, extracts from Francis Ponge (Nottingham: Tarasque Press, c1980)

Items on loan from a private collection unless otherwise stated.


22. Edward Lear, A Book of Nonsense (London: Christies, 1846) CHILDREN’S COLLECTION 820.809282016- CHR

23. Edward Lear, A Book of Nonsense and other absurdities, by Heinrich Hoffman (London: Dent, 1927) CHILDREN’S COLLECTION ---808.87- BOO

Staircase Hall exhibition space:

24. Don Paterson, ‘All-purpose Elegy’ (2012) Artist: Julie Roberts (2013)

‘All-purpose Elegy’ could be a sonnet made of punctuation for a text that isn’t there or a sonnet in which everything has been removed except the punctuation. Roberts interprets Paterson’s two-dimensional manuscript poem in three-dimensional gallery space.

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