PRAISE FOR FIVE OCEANS IN A TEASPOON

Five Oceans in a Teaspoon, the new collaboration between poet Dennis J. Bernstein and artist Warren Lehrer is an engaging masterwork that has only a handful of precedents in literary and design history… If Philip Roth’s classic coming-of-age novel Portnoy’s Complaint had been designed in the style of Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes, the result might be something like Five Oceans in a Teaspoon... This virtuosic collaboration has the tonal and experiential range of a memoir, but rendered in artfully designed poem-texts. The glimpses into American life across more than half a century are always personal, a background of current events within the alternating minutiae and milestones of existence. Small, well-observed moments accumulate: whole decades come and go as we glimpse a life lived in snapshots taken over many years. Each piece in this funny, poignant work is scored—almost in the musical sense—with graphic organization for performance on the page. The intersection of visual and verbal articulation, sustained across the entire span of almost 300 pages never flags or becomes repetitive. The designs Lehrer created for Bernstein’s succinct poems … turn the short lines and statements into vectors of force in fields of action. The effect is remarkable and the range of graphic innovation is impressive: Lehrer gets inside Bernstein’s writing, exploring the ways its structures can be amplified, its meanings extended, through graphical means. Bernstein fits many oceans into the well-defined parameters of Lehrer’s teaspoons; this is a true collaboration, and neither artist would or could have made this work without the other. The complement of their now fully mature talents is evident throughout, and the publisher has taken real care with the design of the physical object so that it opens well and feels as good in the hand as it does in the eye, mind, and heart.”
Los Angeles Review of Books Johanna Drucker foremost Visual Literature scholar

“Brilliant and beautiful. I love it! Thank you for bringing in the new.”
Alice Walker Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, author of The Color Purple

“From a kidnap note for a world held hostage by an A-bomb, to a Holocaust survivor’s tattooed arms where the numbers just don’t add up, Five Oceans in a Teaspoon re-envisions a poetry memoir via a textual kaleidoscope. Here the concrete poem is cracked wide open. How can the imagination free the fetters of the page? It’s a math problem where the answer is ‘Divorce.’ It’s a typewriter keyboard that spells out a poem instead of QWERTY. Bernstein and Lehrer are the Rodgers and Hart of Visual Poetry.”
Bob Holman poet, poetry activist and chronicler, founder: Bowery Poetry Club

“Bernstein and Lehrer—the Lennon and McCartney of viz-lit—have reunited at the height of their creative powers. Five Oceans in a Teaspoon speaks to the madness, vulnerability, aspiration and language of our time. The gutsiness and raw emotion of the writing, revelatory appeal of the visual compositions, and brevity of the form creates an intensely moving experiential journey.”
Steven Heller author of over 180 books on art, design and visual culture, co-chair SVA MFA Design

“A collection of poems by Dennis J Bernstein, brought to life, visually, by Warren Lehrer—Five Oceans in a Teaspoon is a perfect book! In many ways it feels as though Five Oceans is the sum total of [Lehrer’s] numerous approaches that [he] developed over the years. A beautiful title, some of the poems put the reader to work in interesting ways… The animations are quite wonderful and serve as their own performances of the poems.”
Design Matters Debbie Millman

“Published in 1984, Bernstein and Lehrer’s book/play French Fries is considered a classic in visual literature; it won the AIGA Book Award, a TDC award, and was claimed to be “one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read” by Philip Meggs in AIGA Journal. Steven Heller says it’s a book he covets to this day in his forward to Bernstein and Lehrer’s new book, Five Oceans in a Teaspoon, from Paper Crown Press. Bernstein, a poet and investigative journalist, writes of his life: growing up dyslexic, his father’s gambling addiction, his experience teaching in prison and living on the street; of love, loss, and caring for aging parents. Lehrer, a designer, author, and co-founder of Ear/Say studio is known for his expressive typography and visual storytelling, and gives each poem a visual composition. The result is a kind of concrete poetry formed through collaboration, and a truly moving reading experience. We’re running some spreads above, but believe us when we say you’ll want to read them in book form.”
AIGA Eye on Design Meg Miller

Five Oceans in a Teaspoon is an ode to visual poetry. The book is the result of a longtime collaboration between investigative journalist and poet Dennis J Bernstein and designer and author Warren Lehrer, featuring type-based poems that span everything from Alzheimer’s to war and peace. Curated by Lehrer from Bernstein’s thousands of poems, the 200-plus poems have been artfully arranged into typographic compositions that bring home the emotional and metaphorical impact of their words.”
Creative Review Aimée McLaughlin

“The 1984 book French Fries by Dennis Bernstein and Warren Lehrer is a landmark work of visual literature. In the years since, Bernstein’s poetry has continued to win acclaim and Lehrer has set the bar for designers and book artists in visual literature. The duo’s new book, Five Oceans in a Teaspoon, is a masterful contribution to the genre they’ve helped shape. It is a multi-modal project including animations, exhibitions and performances. Five Oceans in a Teaspoon is an autobiography in poems. Bernstein has reported on wars, taught in prisons, hosted a radio show and survived open heart surgery. As he reflects on his life, he reminds the reader that the very struggles which leave us feeling confused and alienated are part of our shared human condition. Lehrer is able to interpret the text so successfully because he approaches the poems as a writer as well as a designer. His instinct for wordplay destabilizes and extends Bernstein’s concise writing—drawing out double meanings, alternative interpretations—providing an unconventional reading experience. Turning the page is like listening to a perfect jazz solo, inevitable, but unpredictable. Five Oceans in a Teaspoon is a moving testament to Bernstein’s view of the world, and the experiences that have shaped it. Once again, Bernstein and Lehrer show the potential of visual literature as a mature field. Beyond self-reference and inter-art discourse, the interplay of text and image (and text-as-image) packs a powerful intellectual and emotional punch.”
Artists’ Book Reviews Levi Sherman

“This book of poems exploits every formal aspect of typography, at a fevered pitch, to establish its syntactic relevance to the semantic, and to ensure—uncannily—that readers are invited and able to navigate unexpected orientations of text, changes in spacing, positioning of word or phrase beginning or ending points. Lehrer also indicates graphical elements—dots, lines, shapes created by interstices between text—and uses punctuation as images when it suits the content of Bernstein’s poetry. For the most part, letters and words do the heavy lifting all by themselves in this work that expands the notion of concrete poetry extending back some four hundred years.”
Timothy Samara Making and Breaking the Grid (Rockport)

Winner 2019 STA 100 Award (Society of Typographic Arts)
Each year, the Society of Typographic Arts “seeks to award the best 100 examples of innovative typography from around the world.”

Winner 2019 Design Incubation Scholarship: Creative Work Award
Design Incubation’s Creative Work Award (given to one or two recipients a year) “demonstrates originality, scope, rigor, impact on communication design’s theoretical, critical, historical and/or visionary foundations.”

more to come. . . .