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Des Cowley

My first encounter with concrete poetry came via Apollinaire’s Calligrammes (1918), specifically his eye-catching poem ‘Il Pleut’. With its gently cascading words falling down the page, it was immediately clear that the typographic arrangement of the poem was of far greater import than its semantic content.

Although the term was not coined until the 1950s, concrete poetry draws upon traditions as diverse as ancient Greek shaped poems, Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Mouse’s Tale’, and the typographic experiments found in early twentieth-century Dada and Futurist publications. Despite this, concrete poetry has historically fallen between the cracks of various critical discourses. Is it art or is it poetry?

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The World Of The Book is an offshoot of the State Library of Victoria’s permanent ‘Mirror of the World’ exhibition, which uses major works from the SLV’s collections to present a global history of books and ideas. The exhibition itself is a testament to the depth and diversity of the SLV’s collections, and the book is thus part exhibition catalogue, part ‘Treasures’ book.

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