Machine translations: Poets, poetics and the artists' book

Caren Florance

Research output: Contribution to journalOther Journal Article


Walter Ong once wrote that texts are inherently contumacious because “There is no way to directly refute a text. After absolutely total and devastating refutation, it says exactly the same thing as before.” Contumacious is a good word: it means obstinate resistance to authority, a rebellious stubbornness, an unwillingness to follow rules. It’s fair to say that artists books are the book’s most contumacious field. The decades-long quest to define what an artists book is and does has unearthed just this situation: the moment that a term emerges, there is a shifting of ground that rarely happens in other modes of book production. In fact, if other forms of books attempt to push the boundaries of their genre’s conventions, they are usually called “artists books” for want of a better name. Sarah Bodman and Tom Sowden spent much time and energy trying to devise a new term for artistic publishing, and emerged with many interesting perspectives but no definitive conclusion. My project, which is situated in the open zone of slippage surrounding the books that are clearly accepted as artists books, tests its boundaries with a literary category that is dominated by rules and conventions: poetry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-24
Number of pages4
JournalJAB: Journal of Artists' Books
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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