To coincide with the research symposium Concrete Poetry: UK networks and connections (15 March 2017), held at Chelsea College of Arts as part of the UAL Research Fortnight 2017, a library exhibition of the rich holdings of material related to this movement part of the Special Collections at Chelsea College of Arts Library is on display until 15 April.


The display explores two aspects of the collections: key magazines in the development and international dissemination of Concrete poetry, including rare titles like NoigandresInvenção: revista de arte de vanguardaSpirale, Konkrete poesie, Poor.Old.Tired.Horse and Futura; and a range of books, cards and other work that highlights the remarkable involvement of staff and students at Chelsea School of Arts with this movement in the seminal period of 1964-1967, from the re-opening of the “new” school at Manresa Road, Chelsea, with Edward Wright as Head of the School of Graphic Design, to the Concrete Poetry exhibition curated by Stephen Bann as part of the inaugural Brighton Festival, 50 years ago (14-30 April 1967).

Concrete Poetry: UK networks and connections 

Concrete poetry, originally a literary movement heavily influenced by Modernist art (Constructivism and Concrete art), appeared in Brazil, Germany and Switzerland in the mid-1950s, and was characterized for privileging the visual (typographical) arrangement of words over more traditional elements of the poem (sound and meaning). It was adopted by visual artists and incorporated into art practice during the early and mid-1960s, becoming an international phenomenon through a network of little magazines, self-publishing and a few influential exhibitions, with the UK playing an important role in this development.

The symposium brought together academic researchers working in this field. Presenters were invited to talk about their current topics of work, with panel discussions providing an overview of the current state of the investigation under the general theme of UK networks and connections in Concrete poetry. The programme included:

9.45 Welcome/Opening: Prof. Oriana Baddeley, Dean of Research, UAL

Morning panel:

10.00 Dr Steve Willey: Visual and verbal permutations in the work of Bob Cobbing

10.30 Nicola Simpson: the sun-cheese wheel-ode and other no things: performing no thingness in the work of dom sylvester houédard, ken cox & li yuan chia

11.00 Gustavo Grandal Montero: Materialising language: concrete poetry and UK art schools in the mid-1960s

11.45 Dr Greg Thomas: The provincial sixties: Literary and artistic culture in the Midlands, West Country and Wales

12.15 Panel discussion chaired by Dr Michael Asbury

Afternoon panel:

2.00pm Dr Michael Asbury: Haroldo de Campos’ notion of ‘Transcriation’ and the time of art history

2.30pm Dr Viviane Carvalho da Annunciação: (Re-)interpretations and (mis-)readings: Brazilian, English and Scottish exchanges

3.00pm Dr Vinicius Mariano de Carvalho: Concrete poetry and music: connections and counterpoints

4.15pm Keynote: Prof. Stephen Ban: Concrete Poetry: Then and now

4.45pm Panel discussion chaired by Dr Alison Green

The event was well attended, with a very engaged mix of researchers from different institutions and UAL students, particularly postgraduate, and alumni. You can see more images of the day on the event’s storify.

The symposium, generously supported by CCW Graduate School and CSM Research, was convened by Gustavo Grandal Montero. Abstracts and speakers’ biographies are available.

Image Credit: Gustavo Grandal Montero