The COVID virus and ensuing chaos is now a touchstone of early 21st-century artistic expression, especially poetry, not the least of which is the dramatic Ouvert Oeuvre: Openings. The poems by Adeena Karasick, a New York–based Canadian poet, performer, cultural theorist, media artist and the author of 12 books of poetry and poetics, have been interpreted and typographically visualized by Warren Lehrer, a pioneer of the typographic narrative and poetry movement. This is the first collaborative work between the two artists.
Lehrer visually choreographs Karasick’s words on the stage of the printed page through typographic compositions that give form to the emotional, metaphorical, historical and sonic underpinnings of each text. This marriage of writing and visuals “engage[s] the reader to become an active participant in the experience/performance of the work.” In Lehrer’s type composition, one key poem, “Touching in the Wake of the Virus,” tracks the trepidation and celebration of the “openings” concept read through socio-economic, geographic and bodily space. As Kirkus Reviews writes, the book is “an arresting attempt to put collective pain and healing on the page.”
The poetry explores “a range of intralingual etymologies laced with post-consumerist and erotic language, theoretical discourse, philosophical and Kabbalistic aphorisms,” explains publisher Bill Lavender of Lavender Ink. “They foreground language and book-space as organisms of hope—highlighting the concept of opening and touching as an ever-swirling palimpsest of spectral voices, textures, whispers and codes transported through passion, politics and pleasure as we negotiate loss and light.”
In keeping with the interactive ethos established by the authors, the book includes a soundtrack recording (via QR code) of Karasick reading her poems, with music composed and performed by Grammy-winning composer and trumpet player Sir Frank London. “Karasick’s rolling, sing-chanting delivery, influenced by cabalism and Midrashic philosophy, with hints of Hebrew and Yiddish … is a brain-teasing mix of semiotic play, pop-culture references and erudite historic-religious touchstones,” writes Janet Smith in the Georgia Straight.
Delicately designed and smartly produced—in a smyth-sewn, three-color foil-stamped three-piece hardcover binding—Ouvert Oeuvre: Openings bridges the gap between art book and trade publication and will appeal to lovers of poetry, philosophy, art, design, new media, performance, and all who are trying to find humanity in the wake of pandemics and other mass maladies.