A Book About Love & War & Death: Canto One

Dick Higgins

This first section of Higgins’ major work, A Book About Love & War & Death, a sprawling prose poem meant to be read aloud. The text evolves modally, cycling through language games and experiments, oblique autobiography, and vocabulary drawn from an Indonesian dictionary, with a use of a chance method that is both elaborate and informal. The guiding principle of the work is, above all, what Higgins saw as a density of conceptual imagery—a density to be unraveled somewhat in what the author described as the work’s ideal reading situation: with a team of readers trading off “as each begins to laugh so hard that he cannot continue.”

Originally published by Something Else Press between 1965 and 1967, the Great Bear Pamphlet series was envisioned by founding editor Dick Higgins as a “poor man’s keys to the new art,” or a means of exposing the most vital work of the time to a mass-market audience, and vice versa. The series made uncompromisingly radical work maximally accessible, with slim, chapbook-like publications of a mostly uniform, pared down design. Taken together, the pamphlets constitute a firsthand survey of the sixties avant-garde (Higgins, Barbara Moore, and Emmett Williams all had a hand in the editorial process) that is both sweeping and utterly unique, transmitting a still-vibrant signal of expanded possibility in art, music, and poetry. Presented here in a facsimile edition, the Great Bears epitomize the utopian vision of Higgins and Something Else.

5 x 8 inches
16 pages
December 2007

Managing Editor: James Hoff