A Tribute to Jerome Rothenberg
A Tribute to Jerome Rothenberg.
Verses by Jerome Rothenberg, typeset and redwood sculptures by Ian Tyson.
St Roman de Malegarde, France: Ian Tyson, 2019. (BRF0351)
Signed by the artist on the title page. Unique sculpture found only in Bridwell Library Special Collections.
British book artist Ian Tyson (1933–2021) produced this tribute to his friend the poet Jerome Rothenberg (b. 1931), printing selections from Rothenberg’s poetry and building four redwood structures as echoes to the verse. Tyson grew up near Wigan, twenty-eight miles northwest of Liverpool, and apprenticed as an engineer in the Wigan shipyards before he discovered a deeper interest in art. He studied at Birkenhead and the Royal Academy in London, and subsequently taught drawing and printmaking at Camberwell, Farnham, St Martins, and Wimbledon. In 1967 Tyson began printing with Ron King of the Circle Press until establishing his own Tetrad Press in London in 1969 as a vehicle for collaborating with poets and other artists. Although sculptural affinity can be recognized in Tyson’s earlier, more graphic work, his exploration of three-dimensional space, and object/ground interactions became more dominant subsequently in his process.
Tyson describes his layout as a quadriptych, referring to a multipaneled painting, an altarpiece. The Rothenberg text is printed on light green Khadi paper handmade in India, with dark gray Khadi supplying the ground for the redwood structures. The work, if displayed as intended beginning with the title page and alternating the four poems with the corresponding redwood “echoes,” would span ninety inches, longer than can be accommodated in this vitrine.
The idea of ethnopoetics fostered by Jerome Rothenberg and others was a way of rising beyond Western literature in a reach after oral traditions in ritual and performance. Of concern was the loss of cadence, pauses, and dynamics that might occur in the transliteration of linguistic works. As artist, poet, and publisher Rothenberg assumed responsibility not only for preserving the nuance he heard, but also for infusing the subtleties into his own cultural stream. Tyson’s page setting in this tribute brings to mind a call-and-response litany, a pause in verse from Rothenberg’s “A Round of Solipsisms for My 86th Birthday” appearing as a potent space in the brief line of text. On the second and third pages are lines from “America/2017: The President of Desolation,” his evaluation of dystopic empowerment. The final page is printed with the words “the definition of a place is more than what was seen,” which begin “The Poem as Landscape,” first published in 2015. The mechanisms by which Tyson was able to reflect the act or office of Rothenberg’s phrases are not conspicuous, but nevertheless they clearly resound.