Report from Eye Rhymes Conference
Judith Hoffberg

Dear Kenny,

You asked about the Eye Rhymes Visual Poetry Conference in Edmonton just this past June so here I go:

I Arrived at the airport and a professor picked me up and brought me to the dorm. Noticed how flat Edmonton is--no mountains in sight at all. The dormitory (with Orthodox church attached) was like a monastery--simple, clean, plain room--bathroom down the hall--and Dick Higgins and I ate breakfast out each morning. We finally found Benny's Bagels, which had just the right coffee for Dick---non-acidic-=-and great bagels too!

I walked to campus (about 8 or 9 good blocks) and saw lots of cafes, coffee shops, restaurants and a big hospital and research center, a wild art center (not the Fine Arts Gallery) and then the Fine Arts Building where I picked up my registration packet and peeked in at the gallery show-- from around the world--with lots of books and holograms, etc.

Got led by a Ukrainian female professor (very beautiful one at that) with some Ukrainians in suits to the Peel Special Collections where there was an exhibition (under glass) of their artist books collection mostly purchased from Tony Zwicker in NYC. There was meeting and greeting, Johanna Drucker was there with these young guys who know you--Christian Bok and Darren Wershlelr0Henry both from Toronto, and we all decided to go to the Power Plant (formerly, that is) which is now a pub--right on campus-- it was a great postmodern, appropriated place--great brew--and I started getting a headache--must be from all the cottonwood pollen around and poplars--but I gulped pills and tried to assume a smile. . It was hard-- but these guys are sharp--young and sharp like you.

Their readings were amazing--they really know what they are doing--and I told them honestly to send you some stuff. There was a gallery opening and we bumped into alot more people--and saw tht it would be a fine conference--up my alley, anyway, although I'm not an academic.

At the opening (no dinner, and I really needed some food), Dick opened the Conference with an overview of Pattern Poetry, then the exhibition opened (with some food and readings by Bob Cobbing (who doesn't remember what he did, since he was stoned (imbibes regularly), butit was great with a drum, and small metal instruments, then Clemente Padin did a wonderful exhibition with interaction from the audience, and then the great Mykola Miroschnychenko from Kyiv, who is a young scholar, did a wonderful reading too with guitar.

We sat through lots of papers, some by younger scholars and Darren and Christian did a joint reading from Steve McCaffery , and Craig Saper gave a talk about the Assemblings Movement in Canada in the 1970s-- he's the young professor at Penn who curated the show of Assemblings from the Sackner Collection at Penn. Craig brought his wife, Lynn, and baby Sam--and they were wonderful to socialize with---Sam really at four months is quite a mensch.

Ruth Sackner didn't come because she was in Philadelphia, her father having died at the age of 94 or so--so Marvin we had to ourselves. I was stunned by the scholarship of the young men who talked about bp nichols, or Steve McCaffery, but it was a bp nichols afternoon with film of him that set the tone of intimate and worthy scholarship in Canada. Marvin gave a talk about his computer database, which was illuminating. And we had more readings.

Then Friday night we sent downtown to Latittude 53 Gallery (a coop) where thre were examples of Canadian Visual Poetry and Paul Dutton, Mark Sutherland and two profs who are best friends read or did sound poetry. Beer (meaning local ale) was wonderful--but it was a hot gallery--and you could not appear with open can in public on a sidewalk, without getting a ticket. Even on campus!

Saturday was Slavic Eastern Europe Day and the Ukrainians in their own language or in broken English were difficult-- but I sat through everything--it was the language of my father--and I just was amazing at the Russian Poet in the tradition of Voznesensky and Yevtushenko (Sergei Biriukov) who could read everything and make it sound like an important poem! The great find was Ukrainian Futurism--and Marvin wants it all--but it is not accessible--it's amazing! We had a dance performance by a gorup on campus, which was entirely irrelevant, but not bad.

Then on those long nights that Californians do not know about unless they travel (we're too far South to enjoy those nights full of light--it stayed light until after 11 p.m. in Edmonton), we walked through lush green spaces, with wonderful homes on one sideof the road--to an Indian Restaurant--Dick says it was marvelous--and we had a long dinner, since the service was so slow. Paul Dutton and another artist from Amsterdam couldn't afford it, so they stepped out--but we had a lovely dinner, and with too much food, we brought it back in doggy bags to the starving Ukrainians who were staying in the dorm.

Sunday was Visual Poetry as a global phenomenon with young and old scholars from STanford and Univ. of Victoria talking about John Ashbery's Litany or Ian Hamilton Finlay and this wonderful old profsesor from Liege spoke about Finlay and Timm Ulrichs. Klaus Groh from Germany talked about Mail Art and found Visual Poetry, Jesper Olsson, a hyoung scholar from Stockholm spoke of Swedish concrete poetry in the 1950s and 1960s, and Claus Cluver form Indiana Univ. talked about artist books, JOhanna talked about the visual elements which made her choose the way she performed the visual text in her Word Made Flesh book, Owen Smith spoke about Fluxus and did performances and gave me a gift as a performance, there were two performances after we had taken a large group to a Chinese restaurant for dinner--with two lazy susans--and enough food to feed us all amply for$13.00 Canadian each--

Monday was New frontiers in Visual Poetry--where the techies talked about computers--Patrick-Henri Burgaud from the Neterhaldns and Eduardo Kac from Brazil, who is in Kentucky now but will move over to Chicago in the fall, who does holograms and visual poetry! He's coming to Siggraph so I'll see him here in August. And then Martha Carothers talked about Capital Letters--the use of them in found visual poetry and in her latest books--and I talked about Richard Tipping, Ruth Laxson and you--and wowed the Ukrainians and young scholars mentioned above, because I talked about the public and popular use of visual poetry--and gave out a sheet of your 111 so that your address was printed on the downloaded page. Dick also made sure people knew about your site as well.

We broke up for a wonderful farewell lunch in the Faculty Club--where the Ukrainians wanted our autographs on the program, etc. And then some of us dispersed, others stayed around and visited libraries, gallery shows, etc. on campus and then retired to have a brew with the gang. The next morning we had breakfast and Dick and I visited the Special Collections, had ice cream, and waited for the shuttle to which we had to schlep our luggage--Dick was visiting the museum and staying over one more night--and I went to the airport and home.

A good time was had by all--and those long days are still longed for by me--not the cottonwood, but the softness. I bought no postcards, umbrellas--just spent $50.00. Not bad for someone who doesn't have any money.

Anyway, you must come the next time--wherever it is--in Bulgaria or Latin America, or wherever.