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Alan Golding

Visual Materiality in Bruce Andrews

This piece is 4,000 words or about twelve printed pages long.

Except for Lyn Hejinian's discussion of the relationships among acoustic, linguistic, and graphic line, Peter Quartermain's analysis of its ‘topological features’ (166) and William Howe’s MA thesis, the visual components of Bruce Andrews' work have received relatively little attention. [Note 1] Yet that work often exhibits great visual inventiveness, and Andrews himself wrote early in his career that ‘the way words fit into a sentence (or a line of thought) doesn't grab me as much as how they relate to the space and silence around them. I like the edges, discreteness, fragments, collision’ (Edge n. pag.).

This essay examines part of the vast visual range of Andrews' writing, a range that includes extensive manipulations of typography; minimalist gestural shapes, evoking — without forming — letters; block-like overwritten glyphs; drawings and diagrams; word circles, word and phoneme wedges, word grids, lists; drawings, pseudo-scientific diagrams, and diagrams for performance; words in graphs, charts, spreadsheets, boxes; instructions for a gallery installation; pages variously perforated or divided by vertical and horizontal, solid and dotted lines; words linked by arrows or separated by hand-drawn landscape forms like coastlines; page designs that run from the scattered and dismembered to the strictly symmetrical. I read the visual text in Andrews not as expressivist or as bearing a direct relation to thematic content (as in his contemporary Susan Howe) but as part of his overall project to counter politically suspect modes of representation using the tools of a materialist poetics. From this point of view, reading Andrews' visual poetics does not aestheticize that aspect of his writing so much as it locates it within the overall social formalism of his poetic project.

Further, consideration of the visual in Andrews (including such projects as BothBoth, his verbal/visual collaboration with the English poet and artist Bob Cobbing, and Joint Words, the collaboration on fourteen small cards with John Bennett) has the advantage of opening up numerous contexts for understanding his writing: concrete and other visual poetries, his intermedia work, his immersion in avant-garde cinema, as well as the preoccupation of the early Language school with material textuality. These various contexts and the visual poetics that they partly shaped also give us a window onto Andrews’ disidentification with the genre of ‘poetry’ and his antipathy for the dominant poetries of his time.

One well-known and central feature of the work produced by poets associated with Language writing is the redirection of readerly attention to the materiality of the word, as Andrews himself has recently recalled: one of that writing’s main distinguishing features is its ‘foregrounding in a pretty drastic way the materiality (& social materiality) of the reading surface, down to its tiniest markers’ (Poetics Talks 2). This foregrounding took multiple forms, but one underdiscussed form involves the visual component of Language texts. In their visual works, these writers raise questions about seeing and reading, the mark and the sign, and the meaning of ‘materiality’ that, if we revisit them, enable a richer understanding of the history, practice and context both of early Language work generally and of individual writers. This retrospective turn seems especially timely when electronic media are returning otherwise unavailable early visually oriented Language poetry, including some of Andrews’, to circulation as well as providing an outlet for the current visual practice of such writers as Charles Bernstein and Robert Grenier. [Note 2]

One problematic term that I’ve already used is ‘poetry,’ and considering the role of the visual or graphic in Andrews’ work suggests just why it’s problematic. Andrews did not come to poetry from a literary background. As he puts it, ‘my interests as a student were predominantly in avant-garde activity in a wide range of art fields — theatre, film, music, dance (a little bit) — and I had read some radical modernist literature’ (Paradise 93). Given the nature of his work, his earliest publishing possibilities involved ‘some people in other types of experimental poetry, heavily influenced by concrete, visual works, sound work, performance kinds of things’ (94), and he has continued to publish work with presses oriented toward visual poetics such as John Byrum’s Generator, Miekal And’s Xexoxial, and Crag Hill’s Score.

Structurally Andrews thinks of his writing (especially the process of producing his later work) by analogy with experimental cinema: ‘Writing is a constructing of previously generated materials, similar to what some of my filmmaker friends do — go out and shoot short chunks of footage, go into the flatbed, assemble films in the editing process... again, more like people shooting film, single-framing or very short bursts of footage, ten feet, fifty feet, a hundred feet of film’ (103–04). As a beginner, Andrews saw his work as ‘a kind of literary writing, or experimental writing, more than I thought of it as poetry.’ Subsequently, however, ‘it was clear that the only future for anything I did... was going to be under the category of poetry, as defined by other people’ (‘How Poignant’ 193–94).

Attention to the visual or graphic in Andrews, then, places his work in an expanded cultural field that includes avant-garde activity in all the arts and, more specifically, visual poetries from Italian Futurism to Lettrism to concrete poetry — identifications that Andrews has chosen to maintain in his writing by continuing to publish work like Ex Why Zee (1995), a book of performance scores that documents his involvement in the worlds of experimental music, theater, and dance. [Note 3]

Within this context of multiply intersecting arts, the conceptualism of the late 1960s and 1970s is particularly important to considering how Andrews’ work, and especially its graphic components, emerged. In Art Discourse/Discourse in Art, Jessica Prinz focuses on ‘works by artists for whom language is an essential constituent part of art’ (1), and we can read much of Andrews’ writing in relation to the conceptual art of Kosuth, LeWitt, Smithson, and others, with the influence of Duchamp behind them. Indeed, Prinz closes with comments on ‘the close tie between Language poetry and Conceptual art,’ claiming that ‘what the Language Poets share with the Conceptualists is an acute sense of the materiality of language’ (166–67).

Such forms of conceptualist materiality as performance directions, postcards, and instructions for installations (with their origins, perhaps, in Duchamp’s notes for his boxes) all show up in Andrews as ‘poems.’ If the attitude of the first conceptualist, Duchamp (whom Marjorie Perloff sees as producing a ‘series of proto-language poems... in the mid-teens’ [90]), was notoriously anti-retinal, that of the early Andrews can often seem anti-reading (at least in the conventional sense of ‘reading’). [Note 4] If Duchamp’s question was ‘can one make works which are not works of ‘art?’’ (qtd. in Perloff 81), Andrews’ seems to be ‘can one write works which are not works of ‘poetry?’’

One project that shows Andrews’ visual poetics moving beyond poetry and the book is Joint Words, his 1979 collaboration with John Bennett. The title suggests two of Andrews’ central artistic values, collaboration and materiality: words produced jointly by the two co-authors, I take it, and words that function as ‘joints’ — don’t they all? — in the construction of meaning.

In Joint Words, distributed in a small envelope that evokes mail art but is not actually mail-eable, fourteen 4 by 2-and-a-half white cards each feature two words, which one could read as a kind of rearrangeable parody sonnet (one card = one line) and a project somewhat analogous to Robert Grenier’s contemporaneous, though much larger, Sentences. Except for two apparent neologisms, ‘kak’ and ‘kaak,’ the twenty-eight words (technically twenty-seven, since one card reads ‘boom boom’) are all complete and semantically meaningful in English, though not all resolve into meaningful phrases when combined. Meanwhile, the ‘apparent neologism’ carries as much relevant weight as any word in the packet, evoking the materialist poetics of Khlebnikov and Kruchonykh: in Russian, ‘kak’ is the middle term in ‘the letter as such’ (‘bukva kak takovaia’) and ‘the word as such’ (‘slovo kak takovoe’). (Willliam Howe has pointed out how a number of the individual cards reflect on their own materiality: the ‘WHITE PULP’ from which the cards are made, their ‘SHEET NESS,’ the ‘STIFF’ quality of ‘EACH’ [n. pag.].) Joint Words is anticipated by texts like ‘Song No 154,’ ‘Song No 156,’ and ‘Song No 124’ from Love Songs, written in the fall of 1973. ‘Song No 124’ prints twenty-nine cards, each one featuring a two-word noun phrase (‘the’ plus a noun); one corner is cut off the cards, like sales tags in a department store. Part poem, part conceptual art, ‘154’ and ‘156’ consist of two vertical lists of words designed for visual display outside the confines of the book: in Andrews’ directions, ‘separate index cards placed on a table or shelf or in a display cabinet’ (n. pag.) Although ‘Song No 156’ is designed to be ‘placed within sight of Song No 154’ (n. pag.), they are in fact separated in the book, so that they cannot be viewed in relation to each other and the book placement conflicts with the proposed gallery or art space placement.

A key distinction for framing the visual aspects of Andrews’ work as a critique of poetry-as-usual is the institutionally imposed and sanctioned one between poetry and writing. He comments as follows: ‘I remember... when the term “language poetry” started getting thrown around, and my initial nervousness about the term stemmed mostly from the P word rather than from the L word — that I thought of it as language writing, a term I wasn’t all that displeased with, because it suggested almost a new genre, or a new subgenre possibility that hadn’t yet been defined’ (‘How Poignant’ 194). In this context, Johanna Drucker’s definition of ‘writing’ is a useful one: ‘the visible form of language from the level of the marks to the letters’ (Figuring 232). That is, ‘writing exists... along a broad spectrum from the most elemental gestural trace to the standard sign’ (59), incorporating ‘marks, strokes, signs, glyphs, letters or characters’ (57).

This expanded view of ‘writing,’ far more than any notion of poetry, can help us understand the place in Andrews’ oeuvre of publications like StandPoint, a ‘visual sequence’ (‘W O R K’ 286) from 1977 published in 1991. StandPoint is a ten-page 11 by 8 booklet; each page features nine framed images within one large frame. This sequence consists of minimalist gestural shapes, sometimes just one stroke per frame. Some of the shapes evoke natural forms somewhat as many of Grenier’s hand-drawn letters currently do (fig. 1); some evoke visually key terms of Andrews’ poetics like that of ‘suture’ (fig. 2) [Note 5]; others evoke actual letters, so that one can detect variously a sequence of I’s or sideways H’s, a V, a U, a large O, a twiggy Y, a K, a distorted H, a backwards P (figs. 1-3). Unreadable in any conventional sense as poetry (as Drucker puts it, ‘traces of somatic gesture remain unreadable because they stop short of participation in the symbolic system’ [Figuring 66]), StandPoint’s non-lexical (though not, as I’ve said, non-signifying) marks are readable as part of Andrews’ career-long investigation into how visual materiality signifies and into what constitutes writing. Late in writing’s history, these traces nevertheless locate themselves at the very beginning of writing and signification. In Drucker’s words, the trace is ‘that materialization of gesture which makes the first line of demarcation against which meaning can be produced. Such a trace produces the differentiating boundary which renders meaning possible’ (66). [Note 6] If Andrews is ‘interested in the basic foundation structure of meaning, in its material form in the sign’ (Paradise 106), StandPoint is one visual form that interest takes.

Figure 1:

Figure 1

Figure 2:

Figure 2

Figure 3:

Figure 3

Such ‘non-word’ material (‘W O R K’ 288) has been part of Andrews’ work ever since Factura (the earliest work in which dates from 1969), and into the glyph-like figures in Love Songs and the rough, unstably geometrical drawings of ‘Unit Costs’ (published in Give Em Enough Rope but written in 1980) (fig. 4). Love Songs contains hand-drawn landscape-like forms, surrounding the words and creating particular clusters of connection and separation (fig. 5); it contains composite glyphs, with the letters barely detectable and syllables or words barely formulable out of them. [Note 7] Songs 144-146 are wordless ‘poems,’ occupying some point between the ‘post-semiotic’ poems of Steve McCaffery’s 1970 Transitions to the Beast and gallery maps (fig. 6). [Note 8] But the use of drawings also seems to elicit what could be read as moments of self-critique. ‘No 11’ repeats six simple hand-drawn shapes in an irregular sequence through a pageful of boxes or frames, over the handwritten statement ‘so now you’ve got the small ball of wax’
(). Perhaps an emphasis on framing and visual design risks producing slight or repetitive results, curtailing the ‘total’ social perspective that Andrews has increasingly aspired to in his work, so that the whole ball of wax is merely a small ball. [Note 9] As Andrews asks in an early journal entry, in a parallel moment of self-questioning, ‘who says a poem based on the integrity of the word [or the mark] will instead allow the reader to be in charge’ (Divestiture—E n. pag.)?

Figure 4:

Figure 4

Figure 5:

Figure 5

Figure 6:

Figure 6

A different kind of gestural trace shows up in Andrews’ highly self-conscious use of handwriting, as that apparently most intimate and idiosyncratic form of physical production becomes another means to foreground the importance of materiality for his work. He comments on his handwriting in a couple of early journal entries:

My handwriting — & casual proclivity for printing — the style of it, the angular precision — isn’t completely a personal gesturing, or expressiveness, but is, really, an attempt from long ago to echo the text — to transform my writing into a reflection or personal figuration of ‘text’ — a result, another one, of my whole love affair and obsession with print, with the qualities which differentiate or distinguish it as text: ‘textuality.’

And again, ‘my handwriting — had to be “printlike” so I could read my writing just like it were a book, text’ (Divestiture—E, n. pag.). Andrews’ handwriting, that is, takes its form from his desire to defamiliarize it as a somatic production and have it take its place in his published work as a material form that will ‘echo the [printed] text.’ On the cover of one of his earliest books, Edge (1973), the title and author name are handwritten but barely detectable as such, and an important statement of poetics about halfway through the book comes in the form of a handwritten letter in which Andrews compares the words on his page to ‘the interrelated pieces of a non-representational ceramic sculpture’ (n. pag.) [Note 10]

Handwriting offers a graphic example of poetry as an individual human production even as, in Andrews’ case, it evokes the mediation of print technology in its appearance. Andrews’ handwriting as reproduced proposes not some tension between the human or organic and the technological but a tension within any possible idealization of handwriting itself as primary or ‘natural.’ He renders the demarcation between handwriting and print fuzzy when his handwriting looks like a typeface. Print itself, of course, is not a neutral or transparent medium. Just as in early Language writing’s materialist critique of rhetorical transparency, where one can’t simply look through the words to the truth behind them, one can’t look through the print to the words, since those words are print before they are anything else.

Is there, then, what William Howe calls a ‘politics of typography’ (Andrews, ‘How Poignant’ 200) in Andrews? Andrews’ most visually splintered or porous work raises what is in part a political question: what holds these linguistic monads together? The unit of composition in his early work is frequently the single word, word fragment, or letter. In that work a thematics of the social tensions around connection and disconnection is articulated visually. In the sequence ‘Film Noir,’ written in 1974, a high percentage of the phrases and sentences begin with a bold black capital in a typeface different from the rest of the text. Beyond the title itself, ‘Film Noir’ begins with an invitation to visual focus: ‘Iris in’ (Getting Ready 30). The bold black capitals make those letters seem separate from the words of which they are otherwise part. In the same sequence, different italicized typefaces on the same page serve to separate words from each other even as they are juxtaposed. If the idea of a politics of typography seems far-fetched, it’s worth considering how unconventional typographical formats or shifts can bring a reader up short, can bring one to notice and de-naturalize print’s otherwise authoritative transparency. The journal collection Divestiture—E contains a number of writing ideas focused on just such disruptions: ‘causal arrows in causal modelings,’ ‘tilted or enlarged letters in the middle of a sentence,’ ‘drawn larger, letters fill-in-able,’ ‘randomized typography,’ vowels done in italics, ‘pieces based on Gregg’s shorthand’ (n.pag.). [Note 11] The connection of all this to issues of authority and subversion is nicely summarized by Drucker:

The threat to linguistic authority made by the manipulation of the words on the page was that it returned the written language to the specific place, instance, conditions of production — it became a highly marked text. The unmarked text, the even gray page of prose and poetic convention appeared, as it were, to ‘speak itself.’ Its production codes lent the text a transcendent character. The text appeared, was there, and the unmarked author was indeed the Author of the Text as pure Word — with all the requisite theological resonance. (Visible Word 46)

The marked text, then, becomes by contrast anti-authoritarian and anti-transcendent. Meanwhile, behind that ‘even gray page’ of convention there lies an image from those ur-materialists and theorists of faktura, Khlebnikov and Kruchonykh, from ‘The Letter as Such’: ‘You’ve seen the letters of their words — strung out in straight lines with shaved heads, resentful, each one just like all the others, gray, colorless — not letters at all, just stamped-out marks’ (257). [Note 12]

Shaved heads and straight lines: one particular point where Andrews’ experiments with visual layout and typography intersect with his privileging of writing over poetry is that once-defining feature of poetry, the line. Writing of Andrews’ Love Songs, Lyn Hejinian distinguishes among the acoustic line (defined by the interweavings of sound in performance), the linguistic line (defined by syntax and vocabulary), and the graphic line, which offers multiple possibilities for ordering since it can be constructed in a number of different directions (64). Here, of course, the cliché of readerly production rears its head — ‘all the words to which this / gives rise’ (‘No 157,’ Love Songs n. pag.), as Andrews puts it — but to view Andrews’ more visually oriented work through that framework both makes the concept concrete and suggests one impulse behind his page designs — active reader engagement. I don’t think that idea needs yet one more reiteration, but I do want to look briefly at some other implications of his work with and his play on the idea of the line.

Hejinian’s ‘graphic line’ is actually an invisible mental line that the reader draws from one piece of language to another across the space of Andrews’ open page. But Love Songs also contains all sorts of literal lines: a vertical perforation separates two halves of the page, but porously, as do his frequent ellipses; punningly, at the bottom of ‘No 166,’ ‘rulers draw lines’ (n. pag.), so the line becomes the point of division and an exercise of power. In ‘Song No 113,’ performance ‘directions’ are rendered graphically by arrows that thus become part of the text and visually collapse any line between the text and the directions that might be thought of as somehow outside it (fig. 7). Far from announcing the writing as poetry, Andrews’ multifarious lines point away from literature toward performance and the art world. In Peter Quartermain’s reading of Andrews, for instance, many of Andrews’ ‘lines’ constitute one more trope directed against ‘Poetry’ as those drawn lines ‘[parody] the poetic line graphically: where traditionally poetry suppresses the multiplicity of connections between words, these lines enhance them, and by emphasizing the graphic qualities of writing emphasize the sheer physicality of words’ (172). Claiming Andrews for poetry requires a certain suppression or bypassing of the insistent visual component of his work; indeed, that intense visuality is one way in which the work resists such claims to assimilation.

Figure 7:

Figure 7

But for all the variousness and inventiveness with which Andrews treats the idea of the line in his early work, one problem arises, acutely explored by P. Inman. While multiple productive connections are possible among the words and part-words laid out on Andrews’ page, when each word occupies its own space or line in carved isolation it risks the very iconicity that Andrews is seeking to explode. Inman wonders if the lines read ‘as tableaux,’ with the poem overall a ‘still-life stood on its head’ and ‘the sculptural, edged quality’ and ‘physical presence and tangibility of the lines’ producing an effect of stasis: ‘the early work as paused. A constant push against momentum.’ In Inman’s reading, ‘a visual writing, disavowing penetration. * * * Pure scan... visual surface’ can even come to seem, against its own best intentions, ‘authoritarian,’ and he notes Andrews’ subsequent recognition of ‘the need for another mode of line, one that’d forestall objecthood.’ (88–89). Drucker writes of the visual line in general as ‘refusing to stay ‘in line,’ however, ‘creating instead a visual field in which all lines are tangential to the whole, which is, in turn, created as a figure from their efforts, their direction, their non-alignment’ (Figuring 140). Consistent with this view, Andrews’ short essay on lineation, ‘Lines Linear How to Mean,’ confirms his characteristically disruptive intention for his lines as ‘suggesting an unmappable space, no coordinates, troubling us to locate ourselves in formal terms’ (Paradise 119).

If writing is recuperated into the institutional designations ‘poetry’ and ‘literature’ via interpretation, Andrews sets the graphic emphasis of much of his work against that process. The visually scattered pages characteristic of Love Songs and much of his other early work put the irreducibility of his language fragments in tension with the reader’s impulse to order even the most recalcitrant micro-units into larger units of meaning. Visual impact precedes and even pulls against the construction of a reading. In Andrews’ A Cappella, Steve McCaffery writes, ‘the digital, gridlike quality of the syntax commands immediately a visual attention. One must pass beyond a seeing of the poem as an optical display to enter into the spatio-temporal activity of a reading’; [Note 13] in this process, ‘the disposition to integrate units and the pressure to uphold their insular, non-semantic cipheralities equally call attention’ (North 23). This tension parallels the one that Inman points to: fragment as mobile shard of language vs. fragment as tiny icon. It is perhaps the tension itself within the text that deflects the charge of iconicity. In other words, the tension between multiplicity of meaning and visual iconicity is one that the work’s graphic nature actively exploits (while the pull between these different readings of Andrews’ visual texts keeps those texts in play and resisting regularization). [Note 14] Or as Andrews writes in ‘Praxis,’ ‘the tissue of contradiction is pictured / as a criss-cross’ (Getting Ready 42).

Andrews’ collaboration with Bob Cobbing, BothBoth, concludes with the remark ‘watch the seriality drugs’ (n. pag.) — regularized sequence is a narcotic to be countered by careful visual attention. This remark oddly echoes a poet very different from Andrews who designed his pages to counter the soporific visual and cognitive effect of the conventional poetic line. In ‘The Book: A Spiritual Instrument’ (an un-Andrewsian title if there ever was one), Mallarmé writes ‘Let us have no more of those successive, incessant, back and forth motions of our eyes, tracking from one line to the next and beginning all over again’ (qtd. in Drucker, Visible Word 56) — and whatever their differences, all later poets are indebted to Mallarmé’s redesign of the page. (Andrews’ Love Songs shares certain structural and design features with Mallarmé’s performance text Le Livre [The Book]). [Note 15] Andrews is also quite as utopian as Mallarmé was, and that utopian visual poetics inclines me to conclude with what I think is an appropriate quotation from Deleuze and Guattari: ‘Writing has nothing to do with signifying. It has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come’ (4–5). [Note 16]


[Note 1] Rachel Blau DuPlessis observes in Andrews the ‘drift, as there is in all writing which faces the materiality of the signifier, to visual texts and to musical texts. Some of the poems are even well served by being seen as grids, along the lines of minimalist visual canvases’ (49). For John Taggart, ‘the pages of Film Noir have a specifically Mondrian look... about them,’ and ‘the visual design of the page is important beyond usual concern for layout appearance’ as part of Andrews’ effort ‘to have the reader come to a heightened experience of language’ (67). Ron Silliman describes the page space of Wobbling as something ‘which Andrews explores (exploits) through design, at moments to the point of seeming painterly (even the prose is double-spaced so as to appear striped)’ (158). In the Aerial special issue on Andrews, a number of responses match his own typographical and spatial experimentation in various ways: see Lang, Brown, Debrot, Retallack, Wallace.

[Note 2] See the online remediation of Steve McCaffery’s Carnival at
, of Grenier’s Sentences at
, and of selections from Bernstein’s Veil and ‘Language of Boquets’ at
; Bernstein’s digital poems at this same site, and multimedia essays such as ‘Electronic Pies in the Poetry Skies’
) and ‘An Mosaic for Convergence’
); and the circulation of Grenier’s hand-drawn poems through

[Note 3] It is worth noting the engagement with the visual arts and with verbal-visual cross-fertilization reflected in Andrews and Bernstein’s editing of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, which featured visual and conceptual artists (Susan Bee Laufer, Lawrence Weiner), film-makers (Abigail Child, Henry Hills), book artists, visual poets, and intermedia artists (Johanna Drucker, Karl Kempton, Karl Young, Dick Higgins), and a revived Futurist, Gino Severini. The magazine included numerous reviews of visual-verbal works, and graphic texts by David Bromige, Douglas Messerli, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Barrett Watten, Severini, and Brita Bergland. Consistent with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E’s genre-blurring project, reviews and graphic texts were sometimes one (in the cases of Bromige and Messerli). Andrews’ own contributions included his commentary on visual components in the work of Michael Frederick Tolson (‘Layout’), Ernest Robson (‘The Politics of Scoring’), and Loris Essary (‘Line Sites’); his text composed of phrases from, and in the manner of, poet/film-maker Frank Kuenstler’s Lens (‘And For Anything’); and his two-part bibliography of articles relevant to experimental poetics, with its heavy emphasis on art and film journals (‘Articles’). Even more apposite and striking, though much less well-known, is the Andrews-edited issue of Toothpick, Lisbon, & the Orcas Islands (number 5, fall 1973), with its almost complete emphasis on the graphic text and its juxtaposition of early Language writing with work by conceptual artists such as Robert Ashley, Arakawa, Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner, and Vito Acconci. Both periodicals are most easily available at Craig Dworkin’s Eclipse site: for L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E,
, and for Toothpick,

[Note 4] Compare Steve McCaffery’s remark from a widely cited early essay that ‘the cipheral [or graphic] text involves a replacement in readerly function from a reading of words to an experiencing of graphemes, for conventional reading involves the use of referential vectors and it is such vectors that are here removed’ (‘Death of the Subject’ n. pag.).

[Note 5] See the essays ‘Suture — & Absence of the Social’ and ‘Beyond Suture,’ on Susan Howe, in Paradise & Method (227–34), with their ‘nod toward the treatments of ‘suture’ in film studies and post-structuralist political theory’ (227). The term also forms part of Andrews’ analytical framework for essays on Michael Davidson (219–26) and Barrett Watten (235–45), and his ongoing poetics project Tips for Totalizers (251–53).

[Note 6] Elsewhere Drucker is careful to separate her use of the term ‘trace’ from its Derridean associations: ‘the concept of écriture, of writing as trace... does not contain a condition for the apprehension of materiality’ (Visible Word 39). Steve McCaffery cites this distinction and goes on to develop a useful, materially centered mini-history of non-normative typographies and alternative writing systems in his essay ‘Between Verbi Voco and Visual, Some Precursors of Grammatology’ (Prior to Meaning 105–24).

[Note 7] See .

[Note 8] See, for instance, McCaffery, Seven Pages Missing 18.

[Note 9] Compare Taggart’s reservations about what he sees as the ‘small range of possibility’ available in a visual writing even of such ‘bravery and sophistication’ as Andrews’: ‘It can force or encourage a more conscious experience of language; it can produce varieties of irony in the process. It is not clear that it can do anything else’ (68–69).

[Note 10] Edge is most readily available at Other examples of handwritten Andrews texts include the poem/essay/statement of poetics ‘(editor’s excerpts from) NOTES ON C, W & Z’ and the later ‘Verbal Sallies.’ In this mock sonnet sequence written over fourteen days in 1988 and framed as letters to the loved one (the title page features ‘dear Sally’ and ‘love, Bruce’ at its top left and bottom right corners), Andrews plays on the paradoxes produced by the intimacy of the handwritten letter-poem (with all possible puns on ‘letter’ intended, I suspect) as published social critique.

[Note 11] At the same time, Divestiture—E illustrates some of Andrews’ reservations about conceptual art and minimalism: ‘Something overwhelmingly NewYorkish about the ‘tone’ of conceptual art — very stylized, yet artificial, grim, obsessive’ (n. pag.).

[Note 12] Given his investment in visual materiality, it’s unsurprising that Andrews would publish what he calls a ‘non-word collection’ (‘W O R K’ 288) titled Factura, after the Russian Futurists’ term for attention to the materiality of one’s medium. Faktura was originally a visual art term adapted for poetry. Futurist attention to language, in Johanna Drucker’s words, ‘relied on the imposition of the notion of faktura, attention to the making of a work of art, especially to the resultant qualities of its surface, onto verbal material’ (Visible Word 175).

[Note 13] The grid made of letters, letter-clusters, words, or parts of words is a form running through much of Andrews’ early work. See BothBoth; in Love Songs, see ‘No 114.’

[Note 14] Gilbert Adair also captures nicely how Andrews uses typography to elicit competing modes of attention: ‘That every word in ‘Swaps Ego’ begins with a capital and is set off by two spaces on either side makes a happily fluent reading impossible; but to stop and ponder each word-unit in the 40 pages is, of course, to peter out in mystified exhaustion and complete loss of the rhythm / sense-shifts’ (108). McCaffery frames what he too calls the ‘iconicity’ of Andrews’ early work more positively than Inman in praising the ‘strong object quality’ of Andrews’ ‘lettristic clusters’ and their function ‘as pure space-time arrestments’ (‘Death of the Subject’ n. pag.)

[Note 15] See Mallarme in Prose 125–33.

[Note 16] Having chosen what I still think is a fitting quotation, I discovered that McCaffery uses it to conclude his essay ‘Between Verbi Voco and Visual.’ So much for originality, once again.

Works Cited

Adair, Gilbert. Rev. of Give Em Enough Rope, by Bruce Andrews. Reality Studios 10 (1988): 101–09.

Andrews, Bruce. ‘And For Anything That I Could Call My Own Thinking.’ L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 13 (December 1980): n. pag.

———. ‘Articles.’ L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 3 (June 1978): n. pag.

———. ‘Articles, Part Two.’ L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 4 (August 1978): n. pag.

———. ‘Bruce Andrews Interview May 1990, Vancouver.’ With Kevin Davies and Jeff Derksen. Aerial 9 (1999): 5–17

———. Divestiture—E. Buffalo: Leave Books, 1993.

———. Edge. Washington, DC: Some of Us, 1973. N. pag.

———. ‘(editor’s excerpts from) NOTES ON C, W & Z.’ Toothpick, Lisbon, & the Orcas Islands 5 (fall 1973): n. pag.

———. Factura. Madison, WI: Xexoxial Editions, 1987.

———. Getting Ready to Have Been Frightened. New York: Roof, 1988.

———. ‘’How Poignant That Sounds, Even As You Read Back the Transcript.’ An Interview with Bruce Andrews 10/3/95.’ With Charles Bernstein. Chloroform: An Aesthetics of Critical Writing. Buffalo, 1997. 185–206.

———. ‘Layout.’ L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 3 (June 1978): n. pag.

———. ‘Line Sites.’ L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 4 (August 1978): n. pag.

———. Love Songs. Baltimore: Pod, 1982.

———. Paradise & Method: Poetics & Praxis. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1996.

———. Poetics Talks. Calgary: housepress, 2001.

———. ‘The Politics of Scoring.’ L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 2 (April 1978): n. pag.  Reprinted in Paradise & Method176–77.

———. StandPoint. Oakland: Score, 1991.

———. ‘Verbal Sallies.’ Hot Bird Mfg 1.3 (November 1990): n. pag.

———. ‘W O R K (-dated from earliest items included-).’ Aerial 9 (1999): 284–88.

——— and Bob Cobbing. BothBoth. London: Writers Forum, 1987. N. pag.

——— and John Bennett. Joint Words. Columbus, OH: Luna Bisonte, 1979.

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Debrot, Jacques. ‘:: BRUCE ANDREWS.’ Aerial 9 (1999): 144–45.

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Drucker, Johanna. Figuring the Word: Essays on Books, Writing, and Visual Poetics. New York: Granary, 1998.

———. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-23. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1994.

DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. ‘Surface Tension: Thinking About Andrews.’ Aerial 9 (1999): 49-61.

Hejinian, Lyn. ‘Hard Hearts.’ Aerial 9 (1999): 63–69.

Howe, William. ‘Remeaning: Sound, Text, Space, and Song.’ MA thesis, U of Maine.

Inman, P. ‘Early/Later: 2 Scenarios For/On Bruce Andrews.’ Aerial 9 (1999): 88–90.

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———. North of Intention: Critical Writings 1973–1986. New York: Roof, 1986.

———. Prior to Meaning: The Protosemantic and Poetics. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 2001.

———. Seven Pages Missing. Volume One: Selected Texts 1969–1999. Toronto: Coach House,   2000.

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Prinz, Jessica. Art Discourse/Discourse in Art. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1991.

Quartermain, Peter. ‘Getting Ready to Have Been Frightened: How I Read Bruce Andrews.’ Aerial 9 (1999): 161–82.

Retallack, Joan. ‘Con Verse Sing W/ Bruce Andrews Praxis.’ Aerial 9 (1999): 131–32.

Silliman, Ron. Rev. of Wobbling, by Bruce Andrews. Sagetrieb 1.1 (1982): 155–58.

Taggart, John. Songs of Degrees: Essays on Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1994.

Wallace, Mark. ‘From BOYS AT THE GUNS.’ Aerial 9 (1999): 149–50.

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