“Stations” and “Turning the Page” by Richard Kostelanetz

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Turning the page is such an essential dimension of the reading experience that I’m surprised that literary artists haven’t emphasized it much before.

With this thought in mind, consider that back in the 1970s I made line-drawings that metamorphose in systemic sequence and thus, when they appear in printed forms, become visual narratives only when the reader turns from one page to the next.

More recently, I’ve produced handwritten cards, Splittings, in which one part of a word appears on one side of the card and another park on the otherwise. Ideally, some unique wit is generated by the reader’s turning:

BE/WITCH, ALPHA/BET, AN/THEM, etc.

In another set of handwritten cards, 4” x 8½”, Filling Holes, the white side has a word with a space between, such as “we t.” On the other gold side of the card is “wept.” The compliment of “turn tile” is “turnstile,” etc.

In my chapbook Scram/Bled (2008), on one page appears part of a word in a typeface unlike any other in the book. The remaining part of the word appears in the same typeface elsewhere in the book. Thus must the reader turn pages to find:  WARD/AWK, TEX/TEN, TAIL/MEN, SEX/ODU

I’ve produced handwritten cards based upon homophones, or words that sound alike even if spelled differently; so that one side of a card has “away” and the other side “aweigh.” Once again, reading this work depends upon turning the card (and then back again), the form of a two-sided card presuming that neither of the two words is more important than the other.

More recently, I’ve made similarly two-sided handwritten cards of pairs of words that can be read Back and Forth, so to speak, bud/get being just as valid as get/bud, a venue as valid as venue a, etc.

Another page-turning project depends upon translucent paper (and tinted translucent plastic) for upper-case letters that read identically when vertically flipped (from top to bottom), such as BOOB and DECIDE. Others read identically when horizontally flipped (from side to size), MOM, HUH, and TOT. Yet others have a complimentary word when horizontally flipped, such as YAM, HA, and HO.

Thought these texts cannot be mounted onto walls, they can be hung on translucent sleeves visible on both sides. To my mind, these text pieces are finally sculptures—literary sculptures, if you will–because they must be physically manipulated in three dimensions to be appreciated. May I someday have an exhibition of them in an intimate venue.

Has any name writer worked like this before? Decades ago, I announced my ambition to be the most inventive poet ever in America. I’m still working toward that goal.


Individual entries on Richard Kostelanetz’s work in several fields appear in various editions of Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster’s Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in American Art, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.com, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked.