MinXus Mail Bag: “From Oceans” (parts 1-4) : Visual poetry by Matthew Stolte (Madison, Visconsin, USA)

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Mail-art booklet from Matthew Stolte (Madison, Wisconsin, USA)

Matthew Stolte is a fav MinXus-Lynxus visual poet. Through a series of small booklets, he is sharing his From Oceans cycle, which contains text-based poems and vispo. Over the last three years, we have become very familiar with Matt’s text-image work that includes elements of concrete poetry and asemics. This is the first sampling we have received that includes a substantial amount of his writing. We are thrilled to be able to include it in the archives. While Matthew Stolte is certainly not the first to use this concept, we applaud the idea of producing these smaller booklets and circulating via the network.

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Matt explains the idea behind the series and the booklets on his excellent Construction Sea blog (which has replaced the sadly defunct Illegitimate Prescriptions). We quote:

“Works above [From Oceans excerpts] made for an ongoing project tentatively titled From/ For Oceans. The book will include poems, visual poems by me, possibly others & perhaps interviews about the state of the Oceans & local water. Three (of the four so far i’ve made) of eMTeVisPub’s TLPs (or perhaps better TLBs) – 12 page poetry booklets – are on this theme. Wendy Vardaman (Co-editor and webmaster of Verse Wisconsin and co-founder/editor and webmaster of Cowfeather Press) in a Review-Essay, “wisconsin shorts – micro-reviews of 9 micro books (a #’d series)” reviews eMTeVisTLPub #1 & #3 (From the Fishes & From Oceans).”

In fact, Matt’s  TLPs (Tacky Little Pamphlets) is a direct reference to John M. Bennett and his favoured means of distributing his work through pamphlets and larger pieces that could be fairly called chapbooks.

Please make sure to visit Matt Stolte’s Construction Sea blog, a hub for visual poetry activity:


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Matt’s fragmented, list-like, cut-up referent poetics reflect the influence of poetry by John M. Bennett, Sheila Murphy, Ficus strangulensis and Miekal And, to name some of the acknowledged masters of the practice. The great vispo theorist Bob Grumman refers to this genre as “otherstream,” and we believe this is a useful operational definition. Roots can be found in the works of William S. Burroughs, Fluxus literary experiments, and Bern Porter as well as less obvious connections in the New York School and other above-ground “movements.”

One great error that is often made is that readers who first encounter this kind of writing and are not aware of the existence of otherstream hastily identity the work as L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry aka Langpo when in fact the mode of expression is entirely different, although there are some shared roots. Otherstream, we believe, has more affinity to the visionary poetry tradition than it does meta-language.

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While some otherstream poetry is severely disrupted in terms of overall continuity, Matthew Stolte’s From Oceans reveals a text that comes close to being a narrative of the seas that includes history, geography, and science. We believe the interwoven vispo pieces are well chosen. In previous blogs, we have noted industrial and metallic tones that appear in Matt’s work. Yet he also consistently integrates fluidity and organic form. From Oceans masterfully moves away from the post-industrial landscape to explore the primal element of water and the vast, open field represented by the oceans. The shores of the continents reveal the havoc of commerce and colonialism.

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The piece on the left-hand side is a classic example of work in the minimalist-concrete spirit. The poem on the right is an example of the historical range covered in the booklet with its references to “Phoenecians,”  “de Gama,” “Magellan” and trade.

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Themes mentioned above are integrated into the vispo piece on the left-hand page, further supported by the text fragment that says, “vanishing shores.”

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The magnificent back cover reveals another consistent aspect of Matthew Stolte’s work: a sense of humour and play. Equating oceans to a “Big Gulp” is clever on a number of levels and manages to achieve closure with a reference to consumer capitalism, which is so clearly a preoccupation in From Oceans.

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As ever, many thanks to Matthew Stolte!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Matthew Stolte
    Jul 23, 2013 @ 03:57:06

    as always, DVS, thanks for your words on my work. i find balance here rather than the stormy sea it was creating the booklet. i would like to add to this wonderful essay. many of materials i use for printing (for the visual poetry works) are found materials. this use of the found often tells the story for me. poem 4 of this series with its “historical range” did indeed set off something of an encyclopedic rendering of sea exploration by a friend of mine who responded to the poem. the phrasing of the writing is influenced by hearing John Bennett & mIEKAL aND read (& Sheila Murphy’s work is influential as well i should add, but have only heard her read in groups) though i try to find my own rhythm. i used to do Gysin/Burroughs like cut-ups – tedious! but astounding when a phrase or sentence stands out. one of my favorite found cut-up phrases – at the bottom of an entire page of unreadable text – is: “apes the lipped killing machine”. i’ve begun to read works like From Oceans at poetry readings to good response.

    ah! I write too much here! thanks again for your words & inspiration.


  2. Trackback: MinXus Mail Bag: “sea stars” – a TLP by Matthew Stolte (Madison, Wisconsin, USA) | MinXus-Lynxus

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