Notes on Print Sources

Posted by deanna

As discussed in our last meeting, Melanie and I have been working on locating and transcribing from the print sources for the poems in the George Bowering, Henry Beissel and Eli Mandel readings. We have been retyping the poems into a Word document, maintaining original lineation, which will provide us with a manipulatable, searchable text of the poems. This process has brought to light some interesting questions regarding the relation of our recordings to their contemporary print sources—what can the audio recording reveal about the poem that its print source cannot? How does each supplement the semantic possibilities of the other? What was most interesting to me about the process of researching these print sources is how the audio recording foregrounds the processual and multiform nature of poetry, unfixing the notion of the poem as a stable textual entity. In some cases, I would argue that the performance of a poem can be seen as both evidence of and catalyst to a poem’s evolution and transformation: two sections from Henry Beissel’s “Wings for Icarus”, for example, are published both in a single-poem book of that title, but also in a heavily revised form as part of his later collection Poems New and Selected. His SGWU reading falls between the dates of these two publications. What is the relationship of Beissel’s reading to these two published texts? Does his reading show evidence of the changes that would eventually be incorporated into the later publication?

Ultimately, I think SpokenWeb could provide an excellent “total sum” resource for studying the poetry of this period. To this end, I would also suggest that we provide also visual, typographical information for the print sources we’ve transcribed from in the form of scanned images. These are some seriously beautiful books, particularly the early Coach House and Delta Press books, many with unusual formatting and typography, accompanying artwork and illustration. An expansion of the question “What is the relationship of the audio recording to its contemporary print sources?” might be “What is the relationship of the social culture of the poetry reading to its contemporary print culture?” In addition to possibly answering the aforementioned questions, providing some images from the books on the site might be one way of answering the “What do we look at when we read?” question.


Questions for print sources protocol:

  • How do we cite the print materials? If a poem is published in more than one book, and these publications are somehow incommensurate, which source do we use? Can we put more than one version on the site? Is it possible to have a feature that compares the different transcripts (audio, textual) and highlights the differences between them?
  • Do we maintain typos and other errors found in the original print sources? How do we approach the issue of pagination in these sources that may lead to ambiguous line/stanza breaks?
  • If we do decide to provide scanned images from the original print sources, how many can we host? Do we provide a scan for every poem, or just a few to give an idea of how the book looks? Where do we put these images on the site? Do they have their own tab? Search for images function?


Scan from Henry Beissel's New Wings fro Icarus, Coach House Press, 1966.

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