Sunday, September 24, 2017

To Steve McCaffery from Dick Higgins





A February 1977 postcard from Dick Higgins to Steve McCaffery, from the Granary Books Steve McCaffery Archive.

The card reads:

"Dear Steve -

Karl Young wants to look at the Filliou/bpN/SMcC/dh book when it's ready for his Membrane Press - okay?

Love to you and Maggie, & to bp,

Dick"

The book Higgins refers to is called Six Fillious, and is co-authored by Filliou, Higgins, McCaffery, bpNichol, George Brecht and Dieter Roth. See earlier post, here, for details.


To Steve McCaffery from bpNichol



From bpNichol to Steve McCaffery, April 27, 1977, from the Granary Books archive:

"From the hand of bpNichol, "his left hand knows what his right hand is doing"

Steve,

worth noting in regard to the CONTINUITY QUESTION is our long discussions about whether to put out an album (i.e. frozen state when what we deal with is shifting — our preference then for LIVE IN THE WEST as more obviously documentary of an occasion & time) & our ongoing discussion of electronic elements as it relates to this question of energy interface. i.e. its human energy not electric we’re dealing with[.]

bp”

To Steve McCaffery from Bob Cobbing



Bob Cobbing to Steve McCaffery, October 13, 1990, from the Granary Books archive:

“Unexpectedly printed your The Entrift for a Writers Forum launch last weekend...It makes a nice little book. I read it at the launch and it went down well with the audience. Because I did it in a hurry, I didn’t check for errors, apart from correcting the ones you already marked — there are a few, I think, so I’ll ask you to do a proof read and let me know what to correct, in time for the second edition. (I did only 60 copies of the first edition, and they'll soon go."




To Steve McCaffery from Dick Higgins



Dick Higgins to Steve McCaffery, April 17, 1976: 

“Dear Steve McCaffery, 

Curious as to what you do. I hear your name from people and places I respect - and would like to know the work. 

Separately, I'm sending some of my writings: hope you will enjoy them. If you could send me something of yours, I would be very interested. 

So few sound poets on this continent! I’m in touch with some of the European ones, but besides Nichol I don’t like any in North America. Seems to [sic] often to affect a false naivity [sic] (Bissett, Lurie, the Harlemans, etc.).

Seems I'll be teaching at Milwaukee next spring: will surely cover sound poetry. 

Very bests, 

Dick Higgins”


This letter seems like quintessential Dick Higgins: curious and candid (note the dig at Bill Bissett, who surely would've moved in the same circles as McCaffery at the time). I used to correspond with Higgins and he often offered blunt assessment of the work of his fellow Fluxus artists. The letters were all marked "not for publication" at the top and bottom of the page. 

For more correspondence with Steve McCaffery, visit the archive at Granary Books, here

To Steve McCaffery from Robert Filliou





 
A postcard from Robert Filliou dated September 2nd, 1978 that reads:

“Greetings from Iceland, Steve. Thank you for your last letter. Your definitions of FUTILITY & UTILITY show a way out of the dilemma of gay vs dismal science (utility & freedom, that’s poetical economy). As for the corkscrew I've taken, I'll use it to open new bottles, to drink the new wine therein. I do hope you'll be in Europe this spring....Unfortuntately I have no suggestions as to paid performances. I suppose that's why I've been teaching here for a month. Love RF."

Also above: a collage dating from the same time that features both Filliou and McCaffery, though it's unclear who produced it, or if it were made in collaboration.

For more examples, visit the Steve McCaffery archive at Granary Books, here.

Steve McCaffery Archive










Steve McCaffery is a Toronto poet and scholar, who taught at York University and currently holds the Gray Chair at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

Born in Sheffield, England on January 24th, 1947), McCaffery lived in the UK for most of his youth. After graduating from the University of Hull, he moved to Toronto in 1968, where he sought out fellow poet bpNichol. Together with Rafael Barreto-Rivera and Paul Dutton (now in CCMC with Michael Snow and John Oswald) they formed the influential sound poetry collective The Four Horsemen. Considered the country's first sound and performance poetry ensemble, the group released two 12" vinyl records, two cassettes, and three print collections. They remained active for almost twenty years, until Nichol's death in 1988.

McCaffery and Nichol also collaborated on the Toronto Research Group, a 1973 group which “critiqued established forms, values, and meanings via exuberant performances of fragmentation and dispersal; and they applied poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theory to poetics to expose underlying socio/cultural assumptions.” (Pauline Bunting and Susan Rudy).

He is the author of countless books and has twice been nominated for Canada’s Governor General’s Award.

The Steve McCaffery archive has just been acquired by Granary Books. It comprises over sixty boxes of correspondence, manuscripts, journals, sketchbooks, address books, flyers, lecture notes and audio and video tapes.

For more information, visit Granary Books, here. The five or six posts that follow will feature examples of postcards and letters sent to McCaffery from concrete poets, Fluxus artists and others.



"When I came from England the only poet that I really wanted to meet in Canada was bp Nichol, whose concrete poetry I’d become acquainted with through little magazines. When we first met we realized we had both been working in relative vacuums, and two people interested in the same thing naturally led to collaboration.

After the Four Horsemen formed in 1969, bp and I started the Toronto Research Group, dedicated to investigating alternative forms to the standard expository or critical essay.

Later came my correspondence with Dick Higgins, which led among other things to Six Fillious—a collaboration with Filliou himself, bp, Dick Higgins, George Brecht and Diter Rot (a predominantly Fluxus gathering of poet-artists).

Later followed the collaboration with Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Ray Di Palma, and Ron Silliman that resulted in Legend. All of these collaborations came out of pure chance (on my coming to Canada, on bp living in Toronto rather than say Vancouver, Dick Higgins contacting me by mail, etc.). Yet they were all informed by the common, fundamental desire to get away from that romantic ideologeme of the lyric self. The sheer energy of collaborative writing exceeds isolated subjectivity, for one is always in collision and in cooperation with another; the creative primal scene here is both community and alterity. It’s interesting that the collaboration with bp Nichol involved integral destructive elements, i.e. we would freely delete each other’s words and phrases substituting are own. (I talk about the dynamics of dictation and transcription that governed so much of the TRG collaboration in the Introduction to Rational Geomancy.) By contrast, the five-way collaboration on Legend was very structured and clean; it was based on discrete accretions with a high integrity placed on distinct contributions. When I started collaborating by deleting other people’s lines and phrases it created a certain amount of opposition."

-  Steve McCaffery, to Ryan Cox, 2007

Saturday, September 23, 2017

VsVsVs












VsVsVs
Kettle Bells
Toronto, Canada: Nothing Else Press, 2016
Sizes and weights vary
Unlimited edition, signed


Very sad at the announcement today of the dissolution of VsVsVs, my favourite art collective in the city. The group moved out of their shared warehouse space (which might have been their greatest artwork - an elaborate sculpture, installation, social experiment, etc.) late last month, in order to allow the members to pursue individual projects.

I had the pleasure to work with them a few times - most notably for Edmonton's Nuit Blanche - and have heap loads of fond memories.