A (Complete!) Surprise for the Bagpipe Player

By Harriet Staff

Booktryst reports that a complete set of Kenneth Patchen's 1955 broadsides, A Surprise for the Bagpipe Player, has appeared on the market. Only three copies have surfaced at auction in the last 35 years, one of which was incomplete.

Silkscreened from Patchen's original painted manuscript on handmade Japanese paper by fine printer Frank Bacher, many hand-colored by Patchen, A Surprise for the Bagpipe Player is rarely found complete with all eighteen broadsides. Copies, have, alas (but with grudging understanding) been broken up to sell the broadsides individually, each a stunning work of art.

Described as a "Dadaist, Surrealist, Jazz poet, Beat poet, visual poet - Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) - hellraiser and "naturalist of the public nightmare" - was all of those things, and none of them," few works embody how one could be all of those at once better than this collection.

An early example of Patchen's experiments with visual poetry - his charming and eloquent painted and silkscreened poems - A Surprise for the Bagpipe Player (1955) is a distinctive, joyful melange of text, drawings and decorations that furthered the explorations of Apollonaire with his  calligrams, and the Dadaists and Lettrists from earlier in the twentieth century.

Booktryst includes a link to more of Patchen's silkscreened visual poetry here

Originally Published: February 24th, 2011