There’s exhibition called The Poetic Express in Context: 1985 to 2015 here at the library of the McNichols campus of the at the University of Detroit Mercy. This post provides further context.
Since 1975, I’ve been photocopying my work and distributing it. I found ways to get it to people. I’d pass out copies to strangers and people I knew. This distribution often became a form of performance art.
I’d often be out drawing in chalk on the sidewalks and passing out free poems or other texts. I’d do this with a certain spirit or attitude. I was energized, always merry and bright.
When I started The Poetic Express in April 1985, it went to a new level. It’s my monthly two-page poetry and art publication. It’s all my own work. It includes a comic strip called SURREAL THEATRE. There are tributes and dedications to artists from the past and present. There are memorials for people who have died.
This exhibition celebrates thirty years of my putting this out every month. I try to put this body in work in context of what was going on around Detroit. I also relate it to my other connections and explorations outside of Michigan.
It’s on display from June 1st to August 21st.
The library’s in the middle of campus, near the fountain:
A description of the Exhibition:
When you walk in the entrance to the library, you’ll see showcase number one. This is an exploration of the Detroit poetry scene, as I experienced it. I was usually an “outsider.” I rarely went to poetry readings or performed at them. The major exception to this was the Freezer Theatre on Cass. I was involved with that group in the early 1980’s.
Before that, I’d enjoy readings at the Horizons in Poetry series at Cobb’s Corner and elsewhere. This was started by the late Ron Allen and John Mason. I attended most of the LINES readings at the Detroit Institute of Arts. George Tysh and crew brought in people like Jayne Cortez and William Burroughs. They usually performed in the same bill with a local poet.
This showcase also displays such publications as Agenda, Art Light, Corridors, Solid Ground, the Fifth Estate, the Freezer Theatre Anthology and the more recent Quill Puddle. There’s also a tribute to poet Jesse Nowells.
From 1975 on, I was around the Detroit cultural scenes, passing out photocopies of my work and hanging out. In 1980, I started to exhibit my visual work in art galleries.
In showcase number two, I focused on the Surreal Theatre. A regular part of The Poetic Express was its comic strip, SURREAL THEATRE. Here I honed my cartooning skills, which I later used for posters, paintings and for drawing in chalk, on abandoned buildings. The SURREAL THEATRE work is also related to my puppet performances.
This showcase focuses on this side of my art. This includes original artwork for the Metro Times and Athens, Georgia’s Flagpole. There’s also art for posters for a 2008 MOCAD exhibit and for the Dally in the Alley.
All showcases include actual issues of The Poetic Express and related ephemera.
Showcase number three displays five issues of The Poetic Express. They’re on display so that they can be easily read. I’ll keep changing these issues during the run of the exhibit.
From 1985 to 2015, there was a lot going on around Detroit. The Poetic Express was part of it all. It was distributed all over, especially in the cultural center area and downtown. Showcase number four has more about the Detroit scene. It includes Marsha Miro’s Detroit Free Press review of my 10th anniversary exhibit at the 2-South Gallery.
A wide range of Detroit-based publications are represented including Broadside Press, Corridors, Orbit, Woodward Magazine, The Left Bank Publication, The Furnace, Dispatch Detroit and Stupor. Citifest, the Detroit Festival of the Arts and the Concert of Colors are also acknowledged. Abandon Automobile was a 2001 poetry anthology. I had work included in that. Lurch was a Brooklyn literary-arts magazine. I’ve had a lot of visits to and adventures in New York City.
In the 1970’s, there was a boom in photo-copied and self-published work. This included zines and fanzines. For me, this led to sending out a lot of letters. Mail art and a lively postal life were a precursor to the popularity of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Showcase number five explores my dedication to communicating through the mail box.
Highlights include my self-published 1980 WORLDS book, Ground Up, the Broken Clock festival at the Zeitgeist and a booklet for an Art Brut exhibit. There’s work by poets Wardell Montgomery and Don Handy.
Then there’s an enlargement of my last letter from Miriam Patchen. She was the widow of the great poet Kenneth Patchen. There’s some stamps. Sending out mail is a lot of hard work. Yet it’s a joy to get interesting mail. I want to get back to it.
Showcase number six includes more of The Poetic Express and more SURREAL THEATRE. There’s also a framed original “master copy.” I usually do these on smooth surface Bristol paper. There’s also some material relating to my 1990’s street art project on the downtown Detroit Hudson’s Building.
Showcase number seven is a flat case. This includes a copy of another recent blog post about this anniversary. There’s a Metro Times article from 2002. There’s more The Poetic Express and SURREAL THEATRE, including panels with cartoon characters reading photography comic books. Then there were the issues that were distributed in Mexico in 1989. Stacks of The Poetic Express were part of a larger show of Detroit artists in Zacatecas City.
I’ve filled around 50 blank books with drawings, collages, poetry, quotations (including long passages copied from books) and other assorted writings. I kept a daily journal for many years. Sometimes, I even paint the covers. This is explored in this showcase.
Next to it, on top of the book return bin, are free back issues. They’re up for grabs. Take all you’d like. You can take one or take ten or twenty. It’s all good.
In 1987, I started doing an annual, two page “Dedications Issue.” I’d also dedicate poems throughout the year, including some memorials. I wanted to honor and to be inspired by my heroes and heroines, both past and present.
Only a few of them are depicted here in showcase number eight. These include Arthur Rimbaud, Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Picasso, Alfred Jarry, Duke Ellington, Max Ernst, Octavio Paz, Ted Joans, Arshile Gorky, Penelope Rosemont and the women who were involved with the Surrealist movement.