Ugly Duckling Presse

Rob's Word Shop
Rob's Word Shop

Robert Fitterman

Spring 2018
Forthcoming"… these transcripts doggedly elude our desire to name all the affects they contain."
“On Wednesday, May 5th, 2010, I opened Rob's Word Shop, a storefront shop where individual letters and words were sold. My shop location was 308 Bowery (the south window at the Bowery Poetry Club), and my hours of operation were Tuesday through Thursday 11:00AM—2:00PM, from May 5 through May 27. The words and letters were either chosen by the individual customers or arrived at with my assistance. I would then hand-write or print the letter, word, or phrase. Single letters were sold for 50 cents and single words for one dollar. As the sole proprietor of the store, I invited people to stop by for a chat and shop for words. All of these chats were recorded as videos and can be viewed on YouTube.”
—Robert Fitterman

This special edition artist's book contains ledgers and transcriptions documenting the exchanges that occurred at Rob's Word Shop, followed by an essay by the store's Records Manager, Lawrence Giffin, and a sampling of materials collected for the store’s archives.

Printed in an edition of seven-hundred and fifty copies of which the first fifty are signed and numbered.

240 pages, 15 full-color plates, cloth-over-paper covers, foil-stamp, sewn binding;

Excerpt ˇ


Left apartment on bicycle at 10:30 AM for Rob's Word Shop. Stopped at stationary store for envelopes and folders ($5.25). Arrived at Rob's Word Shop promptly at 11:00 AM. First customer arrived at 12:30 PM. Served 6 customers continuously from 12:45 to 2:05 PM. Closed shop and left 308 Bowery at 2:15 PM. Arrived at apartment, on bicycle, at 2:30 PM. Total sales: $7.00. Below is a list of words sold:

Customer 3        tops
Customer 4        technicolor
Customer 5        better
Customer 6        unscripted; off the books (gratis)
Customer 7        Constraint-B
Customer 8        nachleben

Close ˆ

About the Author

Robert Fitterman
Robert Fitterman is the author of 14 books of poetry including Nevermind (Wonder Books, 2016), and Rob’s Word Shop (Ugly Duckling Press, forthcoming, 2017), No Wait, Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself (Ugly Duckling Press, 2014), Holocaust Museum (Counterpath, 2013, and Veer [London] 2012), now we are friends (Truck Books, 2010), Rob the Plagiarist (Roof Books, 2009), war, the musical (Subpress, 2006), and Metropolis—a long poem in 4 separate volumes. He has collaborated with several visual artists, including: Serkan Ozkaya, Nayland Blake, Fia Backström, Tim Davis and Klaus Killisch. He is the founding member of the international artists and writers collective, Collective Task. He teaches writing and poetry at New York University and at the Bard College, Milton Avery School of Graduate Studies.

Advance Praise

I don’t know how Rob does it. I usually get at least twice that much per word, and I have to string a lot of them together and work long hours to make ends meet. Good job, Rob.—David Levi Strauss
In Rob’s Word Shop, a meta-banter unfolds: in the form of somewhat mysterious dialogues, interlocutors work together to make decisions about language. It’s a book about what words we might give to our loved ones, the best way to phrase an invitation to the movies, and the effects of italics, emphasizing at once the pleasure of all this—the “oh, wows” and “I’m really happys” that recur—and an indistinct sadness: gift certificates that are produced but never paid for or claimed, customers who linger in fear of regretting their choices, emotions worked on via the choice of stamp placement. Personally, I remain very satisfied with my “oil’d pelican.”—Diana Hamilton
Some say that Rob’s Word Shop is a paean to a unique entrepreneurial spirit created and cultivated by capitalism in our moment. Others, that Rob’s Word Shop finally articulates the link many have suspected exists between the abstract and violent excesses of finance and 21st century conceptual writing. But what kind of shop was Rob’s Word Shop?  And what kind of document is Rob’s Word Shop?  If poems were exchanged for cash (they were), and Fitterman reaped the profits with the frenetic delight of a young Bill Gates or Sheryl Sandberg (he did), these transcripts doggedly elude our desire to name all the affects they contain. I guess accounting books are frequently screens for the most personal expressions of human social life, but never yet in the history of art has a series of ledgers contained so much diverse information, from murmurings to legitimate gossip. I will tell you this, reader. I went into that Word Shop. And I left with more than I bargained for.—Brandon Brown