Rebecca Kosick is a lecturer in Translation Studies and in the department of Hispanic, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies at the University of Bristol. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in Comparative Literature. Her work is on the poetry and poetics of the Americas in the 20th century and focuses its questions within two major areas of inquiry: 1) concrete poetry, text art, and other hybrid forms between the poetic and plastic arts and 2) experimental and intermedial approaches to translation.
Rebecca is currently at work on a book project entitled How Poetry Matters: Poetics of the Object in 20th Century Brazil, Chile, and the United States.
On the Indisciplinarity of the Artist’s Book: Lygia Pape’s and Ferreira Gullar’s “Book-Poems”
In 1959, Brazilian artist Lygia Pape and Brazilian poet Ferreira Gullar both began making what they called “book-poems” in which, as Gullar writes “the book and the poem are constructed at the same time.” Made of cut paper that, as each page is turned, reveals a new word or word-part, Gullar’s and Pape’s creations emphasize the material indivisibility of the book and the poem. In the book-poem, paper, and the page, are not mere support for the poetic work, but materially constituent of it. And the act of turning the book’s pages (cut, for example, at angles or into circles) is not an act so second-nature as to be practically immaterial, but a deliberate, materially-experienced process in which the reader-participant engages.
But despite their many shared characteristics, categorization of Pape’s and Gullar’s book-poems has been disciplinarily split. In Pape’s case, the book-poems are considered part of her work as a plastic artist, and in Gullar’s, they’re poetic experiments. But, as this paper will contend, this has less to do with the works themselves and more to do with the artistic identity of their creators.
This paper will consider the problem of indisciplinarity in relation to what Gullar and Pape call the “book-poem” and what is also often referred to as an “artist’s book.” It will look at the ways these books challenge generic belonging, and examine the consequences for scholarship that unfold as a result. From the simple question of how one “reads” a book like these, to methodology and metadata, this paper will explore the ways artist books both pose problems for art history and literary study and propose new opportunities for scholars working in (and out of) these areas.