Sylvester Houédard

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Dom Sylvester Houédard
Born(1924-02-16)16 February 1924
Died15 January 1992(1992-01-15) (aged 67)
Known forpoetry, concrete poetry, literary criticism, theology, translation, spirituality

Dom (Pierre-)Sylvester Houédard /ˈwɛdɑːr/ WED-ar[1] (16 February 1924 – 15 January 1992), also known by the initials dsh, was a Benedictine priest, theologian and noted concrete poet.


Born on Guernsey, as Pierre (Peter) Thomas Paul Jean Houédard, he was educated at Jesus College, Oxford.[2] He served in British Army Intelligence from 1944 to 1947, and in 1949 joined the Benedictine Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire, being ordained as a priest in 1959 and taking the name in religion Sylvester.[2][3]

Concrete poet[edit]

Houédard was a leading exponent of concrete poetry, with regular contributions to magazines and exhibitions from the early 1960s onward.[2] His elaborate, typewriter-composed visual poems ("typestracts") were scattered across many chapbooks, including Kinkon (1965) and Tantric Poems Perhaps (1967).[4] Among his best-known works is the poem "Frog-Pond-Plop", his English rendition of a zen haiku by Matsuo Bashō.[3][4] He also edited 4 issues of the magazine Kroklok (1971-1976), a periodical devoted to research into the history of sound poetry.

Bible translator[edit]

Houédard became literary editor of the Jerusalem Bible in 1961.[2]

Other interests[edit]

Houédard cultivated an interest in multiple religious traditions; he wrote commentaries on Meister Eckhart and was a founder-member of the Eckhart Society, as well as an honorary fellow of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society.[5] He published a fair amount of literary criticism, often with eccentric typography,[4] and corresponded widely with leading poets, artists, theologians and philosophers of the day, including Robert Graves, Edwin Morgan, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Mark Boyle, John Blofeld, Michael Horovitz and Ian Hamilton Finlay.[3] dom sylvester houedard (dsh) collaborated with Filpino poet and artist David Medalla in a modern ballet entitled The Yellow Wrinkled Pea, inspired by the life and scientific discoveries of the monk Gregor Johann Mendel; the modern ballet, choreographed by Medalla, was performed in 1967 by members of the Exploding Galaxy at Middle Earth in Covent Garden, London, in 1967. dsh contributed a poem to Signals, the avant-garde newsbulletin by Medalla in the sixties. dsh, Medalla and Antonio Sena exhibited together at the Lisson Gallery in London in 1967. Medalla curated the first solo exhibition by dsh in 1976 at Artists for Democracy's Fitzrovia Cultural Centre, 143 Whitfield Street, London.


In 2012, Occasional Papers published Notes from the Cosmic Typewriter, a book devoted to the monk, scholar, translator, concrete poet and artist Dom Sylvester Houédard. Edited by Nicola Simpson, with essays by Gustavo Grandal Montero, Rick Poynor, David Toop and Charles Verey.


  1. ^ "Pierre's grandfather, whom he knew as LaLa, was born 'Gouédart, a name that derives from the Breton dialect and means 'river of blood'. LaLa changed the spelling of his name when he migrated to Jersey because the pronunciation that he used was closer to an aspirated 'h' than to the guttural 'g' that an English reader would give it ... Pierre suggested that Houédard should sound like 'wed are'." Charles Verey, 'Dom Sylvester Houédard: to widen the context' in dom sylvester houédard edited by Andrew Hunt and Nicola Simpson (Richard Saltoun/Ridinghouse, 2017), pages 29-37 at page 33.
  2. ^ a b c d British Council website
  3. ^ a b c Archives Hub: dom silvester houédard Papers
  4. ^ a b c Richard Kostelanetz, H. R. Brittain: A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes, p. 291
  5. ^ Beshara Publications author info

Further reading[edit]

  • Rawsthorn, Alice (December 16, 2012). "The Eccentric Monk and His Typewriter". The New York Times. Article about Houédard noting a recent volume: Simpson, Nicola, ed. (2012). Notes from the Cosmic Typewriter: The Life and Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard. London: Occasional Papers. ISBN 978-0-9569623-3-1. This book incorporates several essays and images of Houédard's art.