Pulsars: Three States of a Single Poem

Lewis, Harry and Gilliam, Sam.
Pulsars: Three States of a Single Poem.
Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin: Perishable Press, 1974. (29496)

No. 32 out of 150 copies.

Pulsars: Three States of a Single Poem combines three versions of the same poem, the first recorded in a journal on July 31, 1972, written by the poet Harry Lewis (b. 1942). The second, dated about a year later, includes a poem for astrophysicist Jerry Ostriker who is influential in the study of theoretical astrophysics concerning phenomena such as neutron stars and pulsars. The third is the final edited version of the poem completed in 1974. Of his process, Lewis writes, “the third version is final. I want it to stand that way. all this shows (records) the process: for better or worse.”

A pulsar is a celestial object that emits regular pulses such as radio waves. The interval between pulses is relatively constant. Lewis uses that pulse to reference time, equilibrium, weather (specifically rain), and a person’s life.

The silkscreen illustrating the poem was created by (William) Weege Da Barba (b. 1935) with the artist Sam Gilliam (b. 1933) in attendance. Gilliam was influenced by Miro’s essence of the constellation, evident in the small, tipped in screen print included with this volume. The silkscreen is reminiscent of Gilliam’s work, full of vibrant color and stitching. He would soak and stain unprimed canvas with thinned-down paint, forming a bond with the canvas, and often add stitching to enhance the relationship between fabric and paint.

Sam Gilliam’s style was influenced by the Washington Color School, in particular post-painterly abstraction. His paintings produced during that time period are most focused on color, form, gesture, and texture. In the early 1970s, collage and highly saturated colors were identifiable in his work, as well as texture, dimensionality, and the stitched canvas. Gilliam is enjoying a resurgence since 2005 with numerous solo shows and an appearance at the Venice Biennale in 2017.

© 2021 Sam Gilliam / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pulsars: Three States of a Single Poem