Dom Sylvester Houedard (1924 − 1992)

Dom Sylvester Houedard was born on the island of Guernsey. He studied at Jesus College Oxford and in 1949 joined the Benedictine Abbey at Prinknash in Gloucestershire; he was ordained as priest in 1959. He was a pioneer of British concrete poetry and regularly contributed to magazines and exhibitions from the early 1960s until his death. He became literary editor of the Jerusalem Bible in 1961, and founded the Gloucestershire Ode Construction Company in 1967.

"During 1945 I realised the typewriter's control of verticals and horizontals, balancing its mechanism for release from its own imposed grid, (and) offered possibilities that suggested (I was in India at the time) the grading of Islamic calligraphy from cursive (naskhi) writing through cufic to the abstract formal arabesque, that 'wise modulation between being and not being'. Hence the label 'latinesque' for these early works.

The other, reversal, area I reached through the kinetic transformations of machine-poetry and poetry machines. The movement of letter forms e.g. tent-flap to daleth to delta to D to d suggests its continuation from d to p, which led to my first reversal dues-snap and to John Furnival's suggestion of looking at the six other reversal possibilities. From d to p continues e.g. through b to q; or c to n and N to Z. Some discoveries like R to S and S to D continue to afford even deeper pleasure than poems in which they are used. One-word and two-word texts are similarly often more rewarding than extended texts. In each case what is presented is never quite the objects or the word but the feel of the moment when MIND e.g. transforms to ACHE or RIOT to SHOT - though the moment itself is enhanced when the feel is supported, as here, by a semantic balance."

Cratylus: The English Artist and The Word, The British Council, London 1979

Past exhibitions

LIVE IN YOUR HEAD CONCEPT AND EXPERIMENT IN BRITAIN, 1965-75

  • 2001
    • Portugal, Lisbon, Museu Do Chiado
  • 2000
    • UK, London, Whitechapel Art Gallery

1979 SAO PAULO BIENAL - CRATYLUS

  • 1980
    • Brazil, Brasilia, Funarte Gallery
  • 1979
    • Brazil, Sao Paulo, Museu De Arte Moderna
    • Argentina, Buenos Aires, British Council Office - Buenos Aires
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