Saturday, September 25, 2010

Crowns Creek

No Press in Calgary has re-released Crowns Creek by Steve McCaffery and Steven Smith, which was originally published in 1978 by McCaffery's Anonbeyond Press.

No Press publisher derek beaulieu has done a nice job at capturing the ephemeral feel of the original publication, keeping the unbound pages in a folder format, but changing the cover from rust-coloured cardstock to cream bond paper and reducing the size from 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" to 4" x 5 1/2". I also notice that for the No Press edition, the cover has been changed to add "Ross" to Steven Smith's name, the publishing name which he began going by in the 1980s. I'm curious how this correction came about--whether derek added to the graphic or got a new one from Steve and Steve--as its addition seems smooth and unobtrusive.

derek's also made the decision to change the interior font of the original text from its electric typewriter monospaced font (IBM Selectric?) to a heavily serifed proportional font which seems to signal a shift from the micropress mimeo/ xerox aesthetic of the 1970s to a more desktop publishing aesthetic of the 1990s: a fitting choice for a reprint.

Crowns Creek (notice the lack of apostrophe) is a fun, if somewhat light, text in the McCaffery canon, but does appear to fit with McCaffery's tendency towards collaborative work, which increased substantially during the late 1970s. As well as his frequent collaborations with bpNichol (through the Toronto Research Group, and in the collection In England Now that Spring) McCaffery published co-authored work with the Four Horsemen, an earlier visual text with Smith (Edge. Toronto: Anonbeyond, 1975), and one of the first (if not the first) collections of LANGUAGE-based writing, Legend (1980), with Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Ray DiPalma, and Ron Silliman, during this period.

While the cover image resembles the type of visual interrogation of cartography that McCaffery was doing in sequences like Maps: A Different Landscape (or even earlier with Carnival and Ground Plans for a Speaking City) the text of Crowns Creek seems to be working in the allusive referential mode that McCaffery had developed with Dick Higgins in which one translated a text homolinguistically, creating a new text through word association, resonance, and subjective interpretation of the words in the original text. McCaffery's best example of this technique was published in Every Way Oakly, a translation of "Objects" by Gertrude Stein. In the case of Crowns Creek, however, the allusive referential technique seems to be utilized in a more call-and-response mode with one author offering a line or two of poetry and the other responding to its associations. For example:


through a brick

threw a window




this place



I'm assuming that this call-and-response technique was the collaborative process utilized based on page layout and use of white space, but as there's no explanatory apparatus included in the publication it might not necessarily be the case. If it was indeed composed in this manner, Crowns Creek can stand as an interesting variation on the Surrealist automatic writing experiments of passing sentences back and forth between two collaborators across a table (as in Soupault and Breton's The Magnetic Fields or Dali and Bunuel's script for Un Chien Andalou).

Only 100 copies printed by No Press--email derek [at] housepress [dot] ca for information about availability and ordering.

1 comment:

Stephen Cain said...

Update from derek: "i changed smith's name to `Steven Ross smith' at his request, it was the only requested revision from the original book, by hand (i hand redrew the image and added the text)"