Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bern Porter

Ubuweb (the most plugged site on this blog, I suspect) just uploaded five rare books by artist, physicist and poet Bern Porter.

Porter was born in Maine in 1911 and died there 93 years later. He is best known for his books of Found Poetry, including The Wastemaker, The Book of Do's, Sweet End and Found Poems. The latter was published by Dick Higgins' artist book imprint The Something Else Press in 1972, who also published Porter's I've Left a year prior.

Porter himself was the publisher of a literary magazine called Circle and books by Henry Miller and the fabulous Kenneth Patchen. As a scientist he contributed to the invention of the television and worked on the Saturn V rocket and the Manhattan Project (which he promptly resigned from after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

He spent three weeks in mental institution in 1967 and ran for governor two years later, authored more than 80 books, was the subject of a massive FBI file, and knew Gertrude Stein, Anaïs Nin, Allen Ginsberg and Albert Einstein. Highly revered in experimental poetry and mail-art communities, he is the subject of a fascinating biography titled Where to Go, What to Do, When You Are Bern Porter: A Personal Biography. Written by James Schevill and published in 1992, it's long out-of-print, but used copies can be found fairly easily.

Porter died penniless in Belfast, Maine in 2004, having survived the his last few years eating at soup kitchens and art openings.

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