Stephen Vincent

His most recent poetry books include After Language: Letters to Jack Spicer (BlazeVox, 2012), Walking (Junction Press, 1996), Walking Theory (Junction Press, 2006), and the ebooks Sleeping with Sappho (faux ebooks, 2003) and Triggers (Shearsman, 2004). From 1972 to 1981, he was the publisher of Momo’s Press books, which first introduced the work of such poets and writers as Ntozake Shange, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Hilton Obenzinger, Beverly Dahlen, and Jessica Hagedorn. In the eighties, he was the director of Bedford Arts, Publishers, which became internationally recognized for the publication of books featuring the works of Masahisa Fukase, David Park, Roy DeForest, Miriam Schapiro, Mark Klett, and Christo, among others. 

Throughout his career, Vincent has occasionally taught Creative Writing at schools that have included the University of Nigeria, San Francisco State University, and the San Francisco Art Institute. Since 2007, in addition to writing, his drawings have been featured in gallery shows at Braunstein Quay (San Francisco), 2009; Steven Wolf Gallery (San Francisco), 2009; and Jack Hanley Gallery (New York), 2011. The work has been subject to two books, The First 100 Days of Obama (Steven Wolf Fine Arts, 2009) and Haptics: The Novel (XEXOXIAL Editions, 2013). Stephen Vincent resides in San Francisco.

Stephen Vincent is a bookman. A poet, editor, publisher and general all-around bibliophile, he has during the past few years turned to making a form of writing he calls haptic drawing. The product of a sensory and exploratory process, the drawing comes about as if dictated by the environment Vincent occupies. The drawing draws itself, the drawer merely a medium of sensation. It is a form of automatic writing, but without words. Sounds, sights, vibrations, moods, temperatures and maybe even the taste of a cup of tea (or something stronger) help create a drawing on a sheet of paper. In their ideal form, the drawings combine to form a book, a book with no text, but a story to tell. Look and listen closely, and you are with the author/artist in Cappadocia, on the California coast, in New York City, tracking the last days of Barack Obama's presidency, at a desk in front of a window through which the sun pours in his San Francisco apartment.

There are single sheets as well; like the haptics in book form, they are drawn on richly textured and subtly colored handmade papers. In these works, the sheets are larger, the marks spare, trailing across wide white spaces, bringing to mind the works of Australian aboriginal artists who recorded what they called “the dreaming.” The smaller pages, covered by denser marks, are often gathered together to form accordion books, some very elegant. After a time, color also began to enter the process – the world is colorful, poets hear in color, some of them anyway. Small sheets of paper containing whole worlds of sensation. Dense lacings of colored lines tending toward pink and blue, structured by black, suggest alternatively the traceries of Gothic stained glass or the drips of Jackson Pollock (but without the machismo). More intimate works like the meditative drawings of Henri Michaux or William Anastasi’s subway drawings, made by the jarring, the start and go, of a subway car, might be more pertinent touchstones. There are so many ways to represent the world, so many ways to make a book.

—David Bonetti, retired art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner