Ephemera in the dsh (dom sylvester houédard) archive

Fran Horner, a postgraduate student studying for an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies, in her third blog post, tells us more about her internship at The John Rylands Library.

As I have been handling and cataloguing the dsh archive (see my previous blog posts on Typestracts and the Delights of dsh), I have come across a considerable amount of ephemeral material. From torn pieces of paper marking the pages where dsh’s typestracts have been printed, to concrete poetry exhibition posters, to handwritten poems on envelopes: this ephemeral material provides insight into dsh’s writing process, the development of his career and evidence of his social activities, which may not have otherwise been seen.

Poster for an avant-garde and concrete poetry exhibition at la Galerie Riquelme in Paris, 14th December 1964 until 3rd January 1965. Some of dsh’s poetry was featured in the exhibition. Found inside issue number 17 of French poetry little magazine Cinquième Saison, 1962, which was dedicated to evolutive poetry. By kind permission of Prinknash Abbey Trustees.

Ephemera is usually mass-produced printed material with the purpose of transmitting a specific message or body of information, and is transient or flimsy in nature, such as: advertisements, posters, leaflets, newspapers, tickets or receipts (detritus of everyday life). Ephemera can also be non-printed material, for example: movie memorabilia, coins and tokens. Ephemera typically has an intended short lifespan and is most likely be discarded or destroyed due to its ‘little value’.

Hand-written note to dsh, possibly from fellow British concrete poet and artist John Furnival. Found inside a first edition of Directory of Little Magazines, 1964. By kind permission of Prinknash Abbey Trustees.

However, ephemera isn’t always considered disposable material, and can, in fact, inform a deeper understanding of an archive by providing evidence, further information and historical context. This highlights the archival value of ephemeral material and should, therefore, be treated as an integral part of the archive. Ephemera is more difficult to catalogue and describe than other printed materials, as it is difficult to define the author and when or where it was printed.

Oxford Motor Services bus ticket. Found inside issue 9 of Broadsheet, an Irish poetry broadsheet. By kind permission of Prinknash Abbey Trustees.
Back of an envelope in which dsh has written notes on Chinese poets Tu Fu and Li Po. Found in volume 2, number 2 of Chapman, a Scottish literary review. This issue is a special issue on Chinese poetry and literature. By kind permission of Prinknash Abbey Trustees.

By allowing us a further insight into the life of dsh, the ephemeral materials act as a legitimate part of the archive and give us a more complete view of dsh’s universe of wider ecumenism and concrete poetry.

1 comment on “Ephemera in the dsh (dom sylvester houédard) archive

  1. Pingback: 29 June: Telling the Truth VII: the telling detail. | agnellusmirror

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