Cultural Weekly has recently reviewed Kern...


Ordinary language can hardly do justice to these poems by Derek Beaulieu. Utilizing signs, logos and slogans, these suggestive glyphs make for unprecedented concrete poetry. Beaulieu is a renowned member of the Poetry avant-garde and is currently the Poet Laureate of Calgary, Canada. In his author’s note, Beaulieu writes, “Kern is made by using dry-transfer lettering without the use of computers. Ubiquitous in graphic design, technical drafting, and advertising from the early 1960s to early 1990s, dry-transfer lettering was used in order to standardize graphic elements, eliminate the individuality of the artists’ hand, and speed up the creative process.” He constructs these poems without the help of plans or sketches, creating each one by hand a letter at a time. The resulting image-field created by Beaulieu is similar to an abstract painting and can even be called otherworldly. Marjorie Perloff says these poems, “present moments of poetic nostalgia for the signposts of a past that never fully existed.”

This book is the latest in Les Figues’s “Global Poetics Series,” and definitely carries on their reputation of pushing poetic boundaries. The book begins with simple logos and gradually evolves and explodes into complicated constellations. As the author writes, “These poems are the street-signs, the signage, and the advertising logos for the shops and corporations that are just beyond reach. They are not islands of meaning—semantic or corporate.” Similar to the “performative typography” espoused by Douglas Kearney, these poems present arresting images that transcend tradition or even description. Beaulieu “occupies the page in the same way that the Nike swoosh sits on a shoe, or how the neon overwhelms the Tokyo streetscape.”