Collage, Collaboration & Bookish Beasts


This workshop will give you practice in the techniques of textual collage & cut-up; collaborative writing; visual and concrete poetry; altered books & cancelled text; abecedarian and "constrained" forms; and the production of simple hand-made books. You will write poems and very short prose, and create small books and three-dimensional poem objects. Some projects can only be completed as poems; others can be completed as poems or as short fiction or nonfiction. Some will require collaboration with classmates. Class time will include workshop critique, collaboration, writing exercises, and talking about the history and theory of what we are practicing. Two projects (only one for undergrads) will respond analytically and creatively to books from the reading list.  Your portfolios will also include short reflections on the relationship between your work and what you have read.

Please note that though you may use your computers & printers to create or print your poems, or components of your poems, this is not a course in computer graphics, hypertext, or other electronic formats for textual art.

Some of your projects will be conventional in the sense that they will consist of words printed on paper; others will be handmade and non-reproducible. Those with skills in bookmaking, printing, or visual arts will find good use for them, but such skills are not required.  You will also have the option of attending (at very low cost) a Saturday workshop in book arts and papermaking at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, in Silver Spring, Maryland.

A few things you may need

Scissors, glue stick, a variety of pens & pencils, a good eraser, an 18- inch metal ruler, a #1 artist’s knife with extra blades, a self-healing cutting mat,
Mod Podge or Yes glue (& a brush to apply it). All are  available at craft stores.

You can start ahead of time assembling a collection of interesting pages from books, magazines, newspapers, comics, or anyplace else paper occurs. Used book stores & library sales are good cheap sources of the unexpected. Choose texts and images from different time periods, fiction & nonfiction, pop and high culture, history, biography, science, travel writing, etc., plus anything you find visually interesting, especially if it has to do with words or diagrams. Look for different typefaces, illustrations, diagrams, prose styles, puns and mistakes, headlines, advertising, concert programs, ticket stubs, match books, museum brochures, musical scores.

You will also need one or more books to “alter” (by adding and subtracting text and images, cutting, gluing, painting, stamping,  rebuilding) so start looking for books you might want to work on and interact with.

Books & reading
All these are required, unless otherwise noted.

Alisa Golden: Creating Handmade Books
Sterling Publishing, 2000  0-8069-8825-8 
$17.95 List / $12.21 Amazon / Used from $9
You'll need this throughout, so buy it or get a copy you can keep all semester.
It's widely available, but I will also order it at the campus book store.

Ken Cockburn & Alec Finlay: The Order of Things
Morning Star Publications/Polygon, 2001  0-7486-6290-1 
$11.95 List & Amazon / Used from $7;25

Jerome Rothenberg & Stephen Clay: A Book of the Book
Granary Books, 1999.  1887123288
$35 List / $23 Amazon / Used from $18

Practice Issue No. 1 & readings from Issue No. 2
Distribued free in class

Jill Magi: Threads
Futurepoem, 2007. 0971680078 
$15 List

Recommended texts, in the campus bookstore:
Keith A. Smith: Text in the Book Format
Third Edition
Sigma Foundation, 2004  0974076414 
$25.00 List & Amazon / Used from $20

Kristen Prevalet: I, Afterlife: An Essay in Mourning Time
from?Essay Press, 2007.  0979118913  $13 List, $10 at Amazon

Betsy Andrews: New Jersey
University of Wisconsin Press, 2007
0-299-22144-x  $15 List

Other recommended texts were not ordered, but will be available for you to look at (and choose from) in class.

Requirements & Grading

This will be a small workshop, so each person's participation will be crucial. You will read and write at home, discuss and write in class: all these elements of the course will contribute to what you learn and to your grade. Our class time will be divided among discussion of the reading, workshop discussion of your projects, in-class examination of texts, and in-class writing.

In the first half of the semester, you will have one or two writing projects or experiments each week, as well as assigned reading. We will move rapidly through a number of ideas and exercises, gaining familiarity with a range of compositional strategies. Around mid-term, we'll pause for you to pull together your first portfolio. This will give you a chance to assess what you've done, to revise or re-make a few projects, and get ready for the second half, in which you will work on fewer but larger projects, giving more time and care to each one.

Reading will diminish until, by the last few weeks, all your time will be devoted to writing and creating projects for your final portfolio and the class reading/show on our exam date in May.


First portfolio: 25%
Second portfolio: 40%
Two projects responding to two books of your choice: 10%
Participation in discussion of reading, including coming to class prepared: 10%
Participation in workshop, including timely completion of weekly writing exercises and discussion of your peers' work. 10%
Contribution to group collaborations: 5%

Late Policy:

Portfolios will not be accepted late unless you also give me written evidence of serious illness or emergency.  Weekly writing projects must be done on time to enable you to participate as a fully-prepared class member, so they will not be accepted late.

Presence: Present means present for the full duration of the class.

Absence: If you miss a class you've missed a week of class; absence for reasons other than illness or emergency will have a significant impact on your grades for participation in discussions and collaborations. In-class work missed due to absence cannot be made up.

Robinson-A 455A

A few things you'll need

Book list

Requirements & Grading

Schedule page

Writing Operations

Writing Exercises

Susan Tichy's Main Page