Transpiration/Transpiring was published by Leslie Scalapino's O Books (Oakland, CA) in 1991, divided into three sections: Minnesota; the eponymous Transpiration/Transpiring; and What I Believe. The pages are presented as loose sheets of 8.5 x 11 inch heavy-weight copier paper in a specially printed box with interleaves of bright green card-stock separating the three sections.
The interior of the box supports the following introduction, by Scalapino:
Robert Grenier's 'scrawl' is comparable to Stan Brakhage's films which Brakhage described as poems.
Grenier's 'book' is drawing, which has no other translation ('reading') than its pictorial being ('shape'). Using Stan Brakhage as a foil, in the film Reflections on Black the film-maker has scratched with a sharp instrument over a blind man's eyes so that a set of brilliant white stars shimmers on the film stock itself. Attacking the surface of the film and reflecting on the conditions of film-making is consciousness.
Grenier's poems are drawings which are 'drawn' as if from the other side of the paper. As if he writes with his left hand.
(He actually did write some of the pages that way.) His text is scratchings on an original space existing only in that; and as if it were on the other side of the paper at the same time. Another sense of space is created.
In the book's first section, the composition of the 8-1/2 x 11 pages is an act of politics. You've got to get everything onto the page, and it can only be 18 pages. (This section was originally published as an ABACUS issue, the format of which is 18 pages on 8-1/2 x 11).
The final episode is introduced by scratches of stars bursting on black leader, as if we too were seeing through the blind man's eyes.
The reader of these poems has to decipher (as really seeing) them. Pages are sometimes divided by a line (center line of notebook), that have a reflecting upside-down 'image' on the bottom; that are the graphic rendition of poems which echo and in some way also 'empty out' the 'other' image. Or are just the next poem in the notebook.
They just exist in that space, which is also 'non-translatable' (in the sense of an act of politics) as not graphic or 'fine art' in its material or technique. In a sense, it can't be translated (its opaque) because its xerox: both individuated and continually different and mass produced. It is as if the correspondences and reflections are produced from the text being a mass technique.
Grenier's experimentation with xerox as graphic art is form which enables drama and 'characters' to be seen in a new way. Brakhage's infants being born, or scenes of children playing with themselves are such an abstract form or 'scrawl'.
Grenier's text is a form of love poem comprised of three parts. In the first part, "What I Believe", the poet addresses Kathleen Frumkin; in the second part "Transpiration Transpiring", he makes "a little magic book" to endeavor to imagine "what else is in the world", and is cast on transformation itself, "only hope" in which this literal shape is the form of the world (such as in the drawing of the moon as a skull with the writing scrawled in that space "I'll try to draw the Moon last night it was like this").
The finding of the world is the writing of shapes , moving to the (horizon) recognition that there are "no end to shapes" or translations in the word/world.
The third section, "Minnesota", constitutes a movement of integration in sound and shape, rising to a love poem to a loon (moon) and the loon's love song to the moon. The latter occur on split double-reflecting pages in a simplicity of beauty arrived at only by the prior process of the (going there) decipherment of the handwriting.
These poems are an attempt to have the 'word' ('world') read as 'world' ('word') as a form of "societal function" or love. It is created by an author being made imaginary to, thus in a sense created by, a reader who translates.
View facsimile of Minnesota
View facsimile of Transpiration/Transpiring
View facsimile of What I Believe
Please Note: those pages which must be rotated to be easily read are presented here twice in succession, once with each orientation.