Dom Sylvester Houédard

(1924, Guernsey – 1992, place of death unknown), born Pierre-Thomas-Paul Joseph Houédard, was a Benedictine monk, a prominent British theologian, and a concrete poet. He lived his life between a Benedictine monastery, activities within the underground counterculture, and last but not least within the queer community in the UK. His interest in a “wider ecumenism”, resulting in his openness to all religions, led him to Buddhism, which also brought him closer to the authors of the Beatnik generation, whom he befriended (in particular, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs). Houédard wrote many theological texts and shared his ideas with, for example, the Eckhart Society, the Beshara School and the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society. During his lifetime, however, he gained fame primarily as a leading author and theorist of concrete poetry. Houédard was educated in Rome and later studied modern history at Oxford (1942–1949, Jesus College). His studies were temporarily interrupted by his military service (1944–1947), during which he visited India (Bengaluru), Sri Lanka and Singapore. In 1949 he entered the Benedictine monastic community at Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire, taking his final vows 10 years later. He wrote texts on the new spirituality in art and aesthetics, among other things, and gave lectures. In 1964, together with John Furnival and Edward Wright, he co-founded the Openings Press in Woodchester (Gloucestershire), publishing their own and other authors’ works.

His works were exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions. For example, he gave solo shows at the Lisson Gallery in London (2020, 2018, 1967), the Richard Saulton Gallery in London (2017), the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle (1972) and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (1971). He also participated in many group exhibitions of concrete poetry, including the Institute of Contemporary Arts – ICA in London (Poor. Old. Tired. Horse, 2009), the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford (Concrete Poetry, 1972), the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (Konkrete poezie, klankteksten, visuele teksten, 1970), the Venice Biennale (Mostra di Poesia Concreta, 1969), and the Midlant Group Gallery in Nottingham (Concrete / Spatial Poetry, 1966). His work is also represented in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, The British Council, and the Tate Collection, among others.