Certain Trees was the title of an exhibition of 'the constructed book, poem and object 1964-2006' held at the Centre des livres d'artistes last year. It focused on a loosely connected group of artists and poets who have presented their own work through small presses and exhibition spaces: Simon Cutts, Stuart Mills, Brian Lane, Les Coleman, Thomas A. Clark and others. In his essay for the catalogue, John Bevis sees these artists as inhabiting the (relatively narrow) space between Robert Lax, the American minimalist poet (working in a line that runs from Emily Dickinson through William Carlos Williams and the Objectivists), and Ian Hamilton Finlay, maker of concrete poems.
It is interesting how often these artists work with landscape themes. Bevis himself is represented by works called Cloud Study (1981), The Foliage Society (1984), and An A-Z of Birdsong (1995). The catalogue describes Bevis as pursuing a 'dialogue between the natural world and its classification and presentation through the idiom of language'. This is a description that could be also applied to works by Thomas A. Clark, Ian Hamilton Finlay and other books and objects: Simon Cutts' After John Clare (2002-4), Stuart Mills' The Bridlepath is Filled with Clouds (1970), Fridjof Nansens's Fog Log (1978) by Brian Lane. Some of the names of the small presses also suggest an affinity with the natural world: Moschatel, Wild Hawthorn, Coracle.
The title 'Certain Trees', with its own hint of landscape, comes from a Roy Fisher poem 'Epitaph: Lorine Neidecker' (evoking her best known poem, 'My Friend Tree', which was published in Ian Hamilton Finlay's magazine 'Poor. Old. Tired. Horse', which was in turn named after a line in a Robert Creeley poem...) The lines by Roy Fisher are juxtaposed in the catalogue with a Simon Cutts poem from 1968, 'The Menagerie goes for a Walk': '.... shade from your tree / touch from my wood. A wood full of trees / a tree full of wood.'
Finlay, Fisher and Neidecker all feature in another exhibition, 'The possibility of poetry: from Migrant magazine to artists' books' currently on at the British Library, which celebrates Gael Turnbull's 1960s little magazine, Migrant.