Richard Tipping

Richard Tipping’s Instant History is a treasure trove of uncollected and new work, in two parts. The Postcard Life brings intense responses to travel in fifteen countries in the 1970s and 1980s. From a meeting with the Empress of Iran, to sailing along the coast of Mexico; from tongue-twists in Tipperary to Vipassana meditation in the Sierras; from ancient sex in Luxor to the visual collisions of Tokyo and quietitudes in Kyoto; from drug-shattered New York to being lost in the Louvre. In the second half of the book, Rush Hour in the Poetry Library, socially pointed but affectionate poems from Tipping’s adopted home in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales mix with a sardonic politics, humorous social observation, and pictures from a philosophical writing life. Best known as a visual poet and word artist these days, Tipping brings a fresh and energetic voice to the page.

Biographical note

Richard Kelly Tipping was born in Adelaide, South Australia and studied in humanities at Flinders University. He has lived in the USA (1974/75), and the UK and Europe (1984/86). While lecturing in media arts at the University of Newcastle he completed a doctorate at the University of Technology Sydney titled Word Art Works: visual poetry and textual objects (2007). Tipping has published eight books of poetry, and is known internationally as an artist working with sign language and typographic concrete. He is strongly represented in the print collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the British Museum, London; and is collected in depth by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Tipping lives
between gigs in Newcastle and Maitland, NSW.

Three poems from Instant History

Writing Class

The poet presents himself as a dichotomy.
Whatever is apparent becomes obscured,
and all the luscious facts wither into hard statistics.
Born here, did that, intended something else
but I forget what. The intruding ‘I’.
The breakneck speed on machines of make-believe
which finally slow motion curve into the cemetery.
Alibis salute the endless proud moments
passing in formal parade. I returns to me and
assumes him. The biography keeps breaking in
to the picture, looking for safety pins or paper clips or
a staple gun, anything to fence out
layers of advice peeling from public walls:
reality is for people who can’t cope with art.
Written words line up like bright pills in a glass case,
your fingers turning the key.
Time is for people who can’t stop.
Rigor mortis keeps looking at the clock.


These cont-pink faithful churches in stone-walled Tipperary
raising both armed pulpits up to rectify divided Heaven
coughing out red barns and slate-tight cottages
for slurring rain to barricade, tipping thatched tweed caps
in all the wheeling, run-down towns
to the budding eyes of mud-faced potatoes,
black and white cows chewing saturated greens
and tourist butter pats in squares of gold
ending the rainbow in a pint of real Guinness
coal-black as the castle-burning barons of Yawn.
The roads are running sore with unfinished yarns
where the truth is history trying to awake
on signs in languages both half unused
and Ireland stuck between the water and the wafer
there’s no way around the priests but a faithful daughter
with a smiling paddywhack clinging to the steeple
the North’s the gold harp stolen from the people.

Earth Heart

Blood, sap, rain and sea –
Earth’s heart is sweet water
Flowing in spirals of gravity.
Vast clouds sail past, reflecting
In a rippling blue lake of sky
Their endless ideas for change.
You can feel each slow tree
By the green shore breathing
Time’s dappled shadows in.
Fresh weather. Swallows’ wings
Near pebble edges lapped by tide
Quick dancing in the rising wind.

Note: This poem was written for Hear the Art (Earth Heart) 1996. a typographic visual poem made of bricks, 26 metres in diameter, permanently installed in the grounds of Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, NSW, Australia. Hear the Art was the winner of theinaugural acquisitive Sculpture Park Prize

 See a review of Instant History by Jean Kent at Rochford St Review.

Some publications by Richard Tipping

Soft Riots (poems)
Domestic Hardcore (poems)
Word Works – Airpoet (visual poems – folio)
Signs of Australia (photographs)
Diverse Voice (visual poems)
Nearer by Far (poems)
Headlines to the Heart (poems)
Five O’clock Shadows (poems)
The Sydney Morning (visual poems – four print folios)
Multiple Pleasures (postcard catalogue)
Public Works (visual poems – art catalogue)
Multiple Choice (art catalogue)
Lovepoem (visual poems– folio)
Subvert I Sing (visual poems)
Off the Page & back again (visual poems)
Love Cuts (photos & poems, with Chris Mansell)
Tommy Ruff: Adelaide Poems
Instant History (poems)

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