Earth, Milky Way: punctum books, 2023. 106 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-68571-176-4. DOI: 10.53288/0510.1.00. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $17.00 in print: paperbound/8 X 8 in.

The detritus of signage is all around us. The poems in Derek Beaulieu’s riveting new collection begin by resembling the signs, logos & slogans of everyday life—and then become more & more unreadable. No two of these constellations are alike; each promises something it cannot quite fulfill, as readability, having failed, gives way to lookability. So suggestive are these images that we cannot stop looking, trying to decipher, to arrest the flow. Kern presents moments of poetic nostalgia for the signposts of a past that never fully existed.

~ Marjorie Perloff, author of Infra-thin: An Experiment in Micropoetics and Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century

Do letters have lives? We have to wonder, seduced as we are by the antics of these characters. The tradition of taking alphabetic forms & making them into suggestive glyphs has a complex history in the signs of masons, brands, trademarks, monograms & graphical poetics. In Beaulieu’s Kern the principle of enjambment is put to poetic purpose. Kern is a living demonstration that poetry is about unleashing the potential of combinatoric protocols to drive the performative art of letters on a page.

~ Johanna Drucker, author of Inventing the Alphabet: The Origins of Letters from Antiquity to the Present and Diagrammatic Writing


Proposed as a collection of imaginary logos for the corporate sponsors of Borges’s Library of Babel, Kern balances on a precipice between the visual and nonsensical, offering poems just out of meaning’s reach. Using dry-transfer lettering, Beaulieu made these concrete pieces by hand, building the images gesturally in response to shapes and patterns in the letters themselves. This is poetry closer to architecture and design than confession, in which letters are released from their usual semantic duties as they slide into unexpected affinities and new patterns. Kern highlights the gaps inside what we see and what we know, filling the familiar with the singular and the just seen with the faintly remembered.

This title is a second edition, released as part of punctum’s Special Collections project.

About the First Edition