Kostelanetz, Richard (Cory)

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KOSTELANETZ, Richard (Cory)

Nationality: American. Born: New York City, 14 May 1940. Education: Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, A.B. 1962 (Phi Beta Kappa); Columbia University, New York (Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1962–63, and International Fellow, 1963–64), M.A. 1966; King's College, London (Fulbright Fellow, 1964–65). Career: Program associate, John Jay College, New York, 1972–73; guest artist, WXXI-FM radio, Rochester, New York, 1975, 1976, Syracuse University, New York, 1975, Cabin Creek Center for Work and Environmental Studies, 1978, Electronic Music Studio, Stockholm, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, Brooklyn College Center for Computer Music, New York, 1984, Dennis Gabor Laboratory Museum of Holography, 1985, 1989, and Experimental Television Laboratory, Oswego, New York, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990; visiting professor, University of Texas, Austin, 1977; artist-in-residence, Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Jerusalem, 1979, and DAAD Kunstler-program, Berlin, 1981–83. Co-founder, Assembling Press, 1970–82; contributing editor, Lotfa Poetica, Villa Nuova, Italy, 1970–71, Arts in Society, Madison, Wisconsin, 1970–75, The Humanist, Buffalo, 1970–78, New York Arts Journal, 1980–82, Rampike Magazine, Toronto, since 1987, and Liberty, since 1989 proprietor, Future Press, since 1976, and Words and Music, since 1982; since 1977 co-editor and publisher, Precisely. Visual poetry and related language art exhibited at galleries and universities since 1975, including Words and, a retrospective of work with words, numbers, and lines, which was exhibited at Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, Cornell College (Iowa), California State College (Bakersfield), University of North Dakota, Miami-Dade Community College, and Vassar College. Awards: New York State Regents fellowship, 1963–64; Pulitzer fellowship, 1965; Guggenheim fellowship, 1967; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1991; Vogel stein Foundation fellowship, 1980. Address: P.O. Box 444, Prince Street Station, New York, New York 10012–0008, U.S.A.



Visual Language. New York, Assembling Press, 1970.

I Articulations, with Short Fictions. New York, Kulchur, 1974.

Portraits from Memory. Ann Arbor, Ardis, 1975.

Word Prints. Privately printed, 1975.

Rain Rains Rain. New York, Assembling Press, 1976.

Numbers: Poems and Stories. New York, Assembling Press, 1976.

Illuminations. Woodinville, Washington, and New York, Laughing Bear-Future Press, 1977.

Numbers Two. Columbus, Ohio, Luna Bisonte, 1977.

Richard Kostelanetz. New York, RK Editions, 1980.

Turfs Arenas Fields Pitches. Battleground, Indiana, High/Coo Press, 1980.

Arenas Fields Pitches Turfs. Kansas City, Bk Mk-University of Missouri, 1982.

Solo, Duets, Trios & Choruses. Kenosha, Wisconsin, and New York, Membrane-Future, 1991.

Repartitions-IV. Port Charlotte, Florida, Runaway Spoon, 1992.

Wordworks: Poems New & Selected. Rochester, New York, BOAEditions, 1993.

MoRepartitions. Port Charlotte, Florida, Runaway Spoon, 1994.

Transimations. Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, Black & White Press, 1998.

Recordings: Experimental Prose, Assembling Press, 1976; Audio Art, RK Editions, 1977; Asdescent and Anacatabasis, RK Editions, 1978; Audio Writing, RK Editions, 1984; Complete Audio Writing, RK Editions, 1985; The Drunken Boat, RK Editions, 1986; Turfs Arenas Fields Pitches, RK Editions, 1988.

lograms: Antitheses, RK Editions, 1985; Abracadabra, RK Editions, 1987; Ambiguity, RK Editions, 1987; Hell/Elle, with Eduardo Kac, RK Editions, 1987; Ho/Log/Rap/Her, RK Editions, 1987; Ho/Log/Rap/Hy, RK Editions, 1987; Madam/Adam, RK Editions. 1987.


Epiphanies (produced Grand Forks, North Dakota, 1980).

Lovings (produced New York, New York, 1991).

Screenplays and Video Scripts: Openings and Closings, with Bart Weiss, 1975; Three Prose Pieces, 1975; Declaration of Independence, 1979; Constructivist Fictions, with Peter Longauer, 1979; Epiphanies, 1980; A Berlin Lost, with Martin Koerber, 1985; Partitions, 1986; Home Movies Reconsidered: My First Twenty-Seven Years, 1987; Seductions, 1987; Relationships, 1987; Video Writing, 1987; Video Fictions, 1988; Video Poems, 1988; Video Strings, 1989; Kinetic Writings, 1989; Turfs/Grounds/Lawns, 1989.

Radio Scripts: Audio Art, 1978; Text-Sound North America, 1981; Invitations, 1981; The Gospels/Die Evangelien, 1982; Glenn Gould as a Radio Artist, 1983; Hörspiel USA, 1983; Audio Writing, 1984; Nach Weisseneee, with Martin Koerber and Michael Maassen, 1984; A Special Time, the 1960s, 1985; Radio Comedy Made in America Today, 1986; Hörspielmaschmer Tony Schwartz, 1987; New York City Radio, 1988; Orson Welles as an Audio Artist, 1988; Kaddish, 1990; Norman Corwin, 1991.


In the Beginning. Somerville, Massachusetts, Abyss, 1971.

One Night Stood. New York, Future Press, 1977.

Exhaustive Parallel Intervals. New York. Future Press. 1979.

Short Stories

Accounting. Brescia, Italy, Amodulo, 1972; Sacramento, California, Poetry Newsletter, 1973.

Ad Infinitum. Friedrichsfehn, Germany, International Artists' Cooperation, 1973.

Modulations. Brooklyn, New York, Assembling Press, 1975.

Openings and Closings. New York, D'Arc, 1975.

Constructs. Reno, Nevada, West Coast Poetry Review, 1975.

Come Here. New York, Assembling Press, 1975.

Extrapolate. New York, Assembling Press, 1975.

Three Places in New Inkland, with others. New York, Zartscorp, 1977.

Constructs Two. Milwaukee, Membrane, 1978.

Foreshortenings and Other Stories. Willits, California, Tuumba Press, 1978.

Tabula Rasa. New York, RK Editions, 1978.

Inexistences. New York, RK Editions, 1978.

And So Forth. New York, Future Press, 1979.

More Short Fictions. New York, Assembling Press, 1980.

Epiphanies. West Berlin, Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, and New York, RK Editions, 1983.

Minimal Fictions. Santa Maria, California, Asylum Arts, 1994.

Openings. Evanston, Illinois, Depth Charge, 1995.


The Theatre of Mixed-Means: An Introduction to Happenings, Kinetic Environments, and Other Mixed-Means Performances. New York, Dial Press, 1968; London, Pitman, 1970.

Master Minds: Portraits of Contemporary American Artists and Intellectuals. New York, Macmillan, 1969.

The End of Intelligent Writing: Literary Politics in America. New York, Sheed and Ward, 1974.

Recyclings: A Literary Autobiography. New York, Assembling Press, 1974; augmented edition, New York, Future Press, 1984.

Grants and the Future of Literature. New York, RK Editions, 1978.

Wordsand. Burnaby, British Columbia, Simon Fraser Gallery, 1978.

Twenties in the Sixties: Previously Uncollected Critical Essays. Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1979.

"The End" Essentials, "The End" Appendix. Metuchen, New Jersey, Scarecrow Press, 1979.

Metamorphosis in the Arts. New York, Assembling Press, 1980.

Autobiographies. Santa Barbara, California, Mudborn, 1981.

The Old Poetries and the New. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1981.

Reincarnations. New York, Future Press, 1981.

American Imaginations. West Berlin, Merve, and New York, RK Editions, 1983.

Autobiographien New York Berlin. West Berlin, Merve, 1986.

The Grants-Fix: Publicly Literary Granting in America. New York, RK Editions, 1987.

The Old Fictions and the New. Jefferson, North Carolina and London, McFarland, 1987.

Prose Pieces/After texts. Calexico, California, Atticus Press, 1987.

Conversing with Cage. New York, Limelight, 1988.

On Innovative Music(ian)s. New York, Limelight, 1989.

Unfinished Business: An Intellectual Non-history, 1963–1989. New York, RK Editions, 1989.

The New Poetries and Some Old. Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.

Politics in the African-American Novel. N.p., Greenwood, 1991.

On Innovative Art(ists)s. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland, 1992.

A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes. Flemington, New Jersey, ACappella, 1993.

On Innovative Performance(s). Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland, 1994.

The Fillmore East: Recollections of Rock Theater. New York, Schirmer Books, 1995.

An ABC of Contemporary Reading. San Diego, California, San Diego State University Press, 1995.

Radio Writings. Union City, New Jersey, Further State(s) of the Art, 1995.

Crimes of Culture: Three Decades of Citizen's Arrests. New York, Autonomedia, 1995.

One Million Words of Book Notes, 1958–1993. Troy, New York, Whitston, 1996.

John Cage (Ex)plain(ed). New York, Schirmer Books, 1996.

Thirty Years of Critical Engagements with John Cage. New York, Archae, 1997.

Editor, On Contemporary Literature: An Anthology of Critical Essays on Major Movements and Writers of Contemporary Literature. New York, Avon, 1964; revised edition, 1969.

Editor, The New American Arts. New York, Horizon Press, 1965;London, Collier Macmillan, 1968.

Editor, Twelve from the Sixties. New York, Dell, 1967.

Editor, The Young American Writers: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Criticism. New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1967.

Editor, Beyond Left and Right: Radical Thought for Our Time. New York, Morrow, 1968.

Editor, Imaged Words and Worded Images. New York, Outer-bridge and Dienstfrey, 1970.

Editor, Possibilities of Poetry: An Anthology of American Contemporaries. New York, Dell, 1970.

Editor, John Cage. New York, Praeger, 1970; London, Allen Lane, 1971.

Editor, Moholy-Nagy. New York, Praeger, 1970; London, Allen Lane, 1972.

Editor, Assembling, and Second through Eleventh Assembling. New York, Assembling Press, 12 vols., 1970–81.

Editor, Future's Fictions. New York, Panache, 1971.

Editor, Human Alternatives: Visions for Our Time. New York, Morrow, 1971.

Editor, Social Speculations: Visions for Us Now. New York, Morrow, 1971.

Editor, In Youth. New York, Ballantine, 1972.

Editor, Seeing Through Shuck. New York, Ballantine, 1972.

Editor, Breakthrough Fictioneers: An Anthology. New York, Something Else Press, 1973.

Editor, The Edge of Adaptation: Man and the Emerging Society. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1973.

Editor, Essaying Essays. New York, OOLP, 1975.

Editor, Language and Structure. New York, Kensington Arts, 1975.

Editor, Younger Critics of North America: Essays on Literature and the Arts. Fair Water, Wisconsin, Margins, 1977.

Editor, Esthetic Contemporary. New York, Prometheus, 1977.

Editor, Assembling Assembling. New York, Assembling Press, 1978.

Editor, Visual Literature Criticism: A New Collection. Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, and London, Feffer and Simons, 1979.

Editor, Text-Sound Texts. New York, Morrow, 1980.

Editor, The Yale Gertrude Stein (selection). New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Press, 1980.

Editor, Scenarios. New York, Assembling Press, 1980.

Editor, Aural Literature Criticism. New York, Precisely-RK Editions, 1981.

Editor, American Writing Today. Washington, D.C., Voice of America Forum Series, 2 vols., 1981.

Editor, The Avant-Garde Tradition in Literature. Buffalo, New York, Prometheus, 1982.

Editor, The Literature of SoHo. New York, Shantih, 1983.

Editor, with Benjamin Hrushovski, The Poetics of the New Poetries. New York, RK Editions, 1983.

Editor, with Stephen Scobie, Precisely Complete. New York, RKEditions, 6 vols., 1985.

Editor, Esthetics Contemporary. Buffalo, New York, Prometheus, 1989.

Editor, Gertrude Stein Advanced. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland, 1991.

Editor, Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Time and Space. Flemington, New Jersey, A Cappella, 1992.

Editor, John Cage, Writer. New York, Limelight, 1993.

Editor, Writings about John Cage. Ann Arbor, Michigan, University of Michigan Press, 1993.

Editor, with John Rocco, Another E.E. Cummings. New York, Norton, 1995.

Editor, with Joseph Darby, Nicolas Slonimsky: The First Hundred Years. New York, Schirmer Books, 1995.

Editor, with Joseph Darby and Matthew Santa, Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music: A Continuing Symposium. New York, Schirmer Books, and London, Prentice Hall International, 1996.

Editor, with Anson John Pope, The B.B. King Companion: Five Decades of Commentary. London, Omnibus, 1997.

Editor, with John Rocco, The Frank Zappa Companion: Four Decades of Commentary. London and New York, Omnibus, 1997.

Editor, with Robert Flemming, Writings on Glass: Essays, Interviews, Criticism. New York, Schirmer Books, and London, Prentice Hall International, 1997.


Critical Studies: Once Again, edited by Jean-François Bory, New York, New Directions 1968; "Poetry and Space" by Carolo Alberto Sitta, in The Gazette (Modena, Italy), 4 November 1970; "Figured Verse and Calligrams" by Massin, in Letter and Image, Paris, Gallimard and New York, Van Nostrand, 1970; Text-Bilder/Visuelle Poési International edited by Klaus Peter Dencker, Cologne, Dumont Schauberg, 1972; by L.J. Davis, in New York Times Book Review, 21 October 1973; "Richard Kostelanetz" by Hugh Fox, in West Coast Poetry Review 12 (Reno, Nevada), summer 1974; by Thomas Powers in Harper's (New York), November 1974; by John W. Aldridge, in Michigan Quarterly Review (Ann Arbor), summer 1975; by Michael Joseph Phillips, in Small Press Review (Paradise, California), June-July 1976; "Just Plain Video and Video-Plus" by Davidson Gigliotti, in Soho Weekly News (New York), 30 December 1976; "Scavenger Art and Richard Kostelanetz" by George Myers, Jr., in An Introduction to Modern Times, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, Lunchroom Press, 1982; "Intermedia Today: William Hellerman and Richard Kostelanetz" by Tom Johnson, in The Voice of New Music, Eindhoven, NL, 1989; "Toward a Critical Understanding of Richard Kostelanetz's Single-Sentence Stories" by Raymond Gomez, in Critique, XXXV/ 4, summer 1994; "Kostelanetz's 'Tribute to Henry Ford'" by Hildy Coleman, in Explicator (Washington, D.C.), 53(2), winter 1995; "Alternative, Possibility, and Essence: An Interview with Richard Kostelanetz" by Harry Polkinhorn and Larry McCaffery, in Some Other Fluency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors, edited by McCaffery, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

Richard Kostelanetz comments:

Though I once said that my creative work made me a "poet," I now speak of myself as an "artist and writer," nonetheless wishing that there were in English a single term that combined the two. "Maker" might be more appropriate, its modesty notwithstanding. The variousness of the work confuses not only the art public but also those critics who still expect someone to be just a poet or just a composer or just a visual artist, rather than all of those things and much else besides. The principal problem with person-centered epithets such as "painter" and "writer" is that they become not descriptions but jails, either restricting one's creative activity or defining one's creative adventure in terms of one's initial professional category (e.g., "artist's books"). As Ad Reinhardt warned, "Art disease is caused by a hardening of the categories." In truth, anyone realizing a radically different kind of poetry will probably have a radically different kind of poetry career as well. Even so, it should be possible for any of us to make poems or photographs or music as we wish and, better yet, to have these works regarded plainly as poems or photographs or music. Perhaps the sum of my artworks, including poetry, is ultimately about the discovery of possibilities, initially in the exploitation of available media and then in art and, by extension, in oneself as a creative initiator.

*  *  *

The appropriate term for most of Richard Kostelanetz's creative work is "visual poetry." Although the implied definition of "poetry" here is radical, the label essentially designates a subgenre or intermedium of nonlinear and nonsyntactic black word forms arranged on a white page and reprintable. These forms are akin to but greatly extended from so-called shape poems, whose ancestry is traceable back through Apollinaire and George Herbert to the illuminated manuscript and Chinese ideogram. Kostelanetz's visual poems deliberately contravene current literary practice, but they also employ such specifically literary devices as punning, wit, allusion, alliteration, parallelism, and contrast. Constructivism and minimalism in the visual art tradition have also influenced him. His early poems in Visual Language, composed around 1967, are usually mimetic, often employing only one letter or word, and are often erotic in content. An example is found in "Disintegration," in which the word increasingly fragments in repetitions down the page until it disappears entirely. I Articulations presents more complex structures that involve synonyms, multiple repetitions, and philosophical concerns about the nature of language.

In the 1970s Kostelanetz moved from this style and its ramifications into "fictions," defined as "sequential forms that still eschew the prosaic form of expository sentences," and into poems consisting entirely of numbers, thus emphasizing that formal pattern and relationship are at the heart of his aesthetic. In his work of the 1980s he carried this aesthetic into video, adding the dimension of sound correlated with moving forms on a screen and thus giving his work a dramatic potential. The early videos sometimes worked from print pieces; for instance, "Recyclings," a print work that took every other word out of something previously written, was filmed with a pair of isolated lips (his own) reading in one corner of the screen and then added a second set of lips in another corner, with a voice superimposed, until at the climax many lips and words coincided indecipherably. In Kinetic Writings vibrating word forms appear and disappear, being transmuted from one word to another; "lascivious," for example, swiftly evolves through intermittent words into "civilized." On the tape entitled Video Strings words containing identical letters traverse the screen without break, each containing part of the following word. For example, a scrap such as "microphonemesis" contains "microphone," "phonemes," and "nemesis." The "string" of many hundreds of words moves so rapidly that the viewer perceives only about one combination in five or six overlaps. This defiance of conventional "reading" is consistent with Kostelanetz's overall disregard for "meaning" in art. For him the experience of art is purely and entirely an experience of form.

Video attracts Kostelanetz because it is an intimate form that can be engaged in quietly at home, just as books are read. He therefore considers his enhancement of language by video and visual components to be a literary development. He is virtually alone in the poetry world in making his own videos (with technical assistance), as distinct from having them taped by others. His video work has led to experiments with holograms, in which the laser projection permits four layers of word permutations to come out of the picture plane. Film technique also influenced his 1998 book Transimations, created in collaboration with the designer Eun-Ha Paek. The title is arranged so that the s of the prefix "trans" overlies the i of "animations," producing an unpronounceable coinage. Further, the letters a and n exist in both verbal formations but slide into one image, as in the old-fashioned technique used in animated cartoons. The subtitle, "a poetry-film storyboard," establishes this concept, which is generally maintained throughout the book. A three-, four-, or five-letter word is modified through successive frames in which one letter is changed by a second letter superimposed on it; in the next frame the underlying letter is dropped to form a new word. Rigorous formalism remains Kostelanetz's focus, and the word changes and the juxtaposition of grids do not generate meaning. One poem is a tour de force that contains 204 frames and that mutates through shades of lighter and darker print, resembling the slats of a venetian blind, to produce thirty-five words, from "nape" to "nope" to "hope" and so forth, ending up at "dial."

Whether such language games can be categorized as visual poetry remains an open question. In any case, through his extension of the formal uses of language into new contexts, Kostelanetz breaks down preconceived barriers between media and extends the avant-garde theories that he has promulgated over the years.

—Jane Augustine