Dom Sylvester Houédard was a Benedictine monk, scholar, concrete poet and pivot in the post war avante-garde. Since his death twenty years ago, Houédard’s varied, experimental work has barely left the hands of private collectors. The publication of Notes from a Cosmic Typewriter: The Life and Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard, edited by Nicola Simpson, seeks to reintroduce this maverick to a wider audience.
Chiefly celebrated for introducing concrete poetry to England in 1961, in particular Houédard is remembered for his delicate typestracts – concrete poems created on his Olivetti typewriter. Though based at Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire, Houédard was an influential figure within the international artistic movements of the time, composing event scores for John Cage and Yoko Ono, founding the concrete poetry collective Gloup & Woup, participating in the mail art movement and collaborating with others. Cosmic Typewriter not only contextualises Houédard, but shows the extent to which he pushed the form he helped create: making poems from collaged found objects, and turning them into sound.