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This review is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

Chance and Design jess, O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica, edited by Michael Duncan (Siglio Press, Los Angeles) $47.50

Much of the work collected in O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica is available for the first time, having been published in limited runs or given out to a coterie of friends. There is, for example, a pasted-up send-up of the comic strip 'Big Ben Bolt', entitled 'Ben Big Bolt', dedicated to the poets Robin Blaser and James Broughton: 'A Merry Merry Robin and Jim and / a Happy You Near / from Robert & Jess'. A perfect example of Jess's artistic practice: taking extant things (holiday greetings, for example) and recasting or transforming them. Drawing on artistic and poetic techniques such as collage, bricolage or assemblage, Jess's work is founded on the artist as conduit and creator. He titled the series of paintings that includes his celebrated 'Narkissos' translation.

The artist and poet Burgess Franklin Collins, who would become known simply as 'Jess', was born in Long Beach, California in 1923. A gifted scientist, he contributed to the Manhattan Project during his WWII draft service and continued to work in the atomic energy industry following his exit from the army. However, following a moment of self-realisation about the future of atomic weaponry, Jess left his scientific career behind in 1949 and instead became an artist. Two years later, Jess met the San Francisco poet Robert Duncan, who would become his lifelong partner, soulmate and collaborator.

One affinity between the work of Jess and that of Duncan is their shared investment in and invention of ...


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