Robert Stikmanz is the creative identity responsible for a growing body of magic and surreality he lumps under the umbrella, Habdvarsha.
A guide to his invented language, Dvarsh, An Introduction, was released in December 2017 by Stikmantica, the commercial entity Stikmanz founded as a production and marketing conduit for his various works. In the same month, Stikmanz was acknowledged for his work with a “Best Creator of a New Language” critic’s pick in the Austin Chronicle’s “Best of Austin 2017” awards.
Extended Author History:
A native of the gulf coast city of La Porte, Texas, and a graduate of Austin College (Sherman, Texas), Stikmanz began publishing poems and occasional illustrations in the late seventies. Moving to Austin in 1979 he became an active presence in independent Texas letters, contributing poems, short essays, illustrations, design and production assistance to numerous small press publications, including the Sleepy Tree anthologies, Window Magazine, The Argonaut, Aileron, VíAtzlan, Lone Star Socialist, SA, Austin Duckweed and Vowel Movement. Three collections of his poems are out of print, probably for the best: The Green Book (Sleepy Tree Publishing, 1981), 6 (Aileron Press Miniature, 1983) and Restless Native (Ambrose & Lewis, 1988).
In December 1988 he moved to Iowa City, Iowa, where he contributed essays and illustrations to The Iowa Idea, publication of the Iowa Socialist Party, and The Human Condition, an irregularly appearing newspaper devoted to political and cultural events. He also became a volunteer producer of video art for Iowa City Public Access Television. 1994 saw him venture into book publishing with production of Amerikan Journeys: :Jornadas Americanas, by Ricardo Sánchez, the last original collection by this significant poet to see print before Sánchez’s death in 1995.
Audio & Video artist
November and December 1978 saw his first sound art recordings in collaboration with John Witham. The collaboration was renewed in 1983, in Austin, developing eventually into Jam Cadre, an art music collective consisting of Stikmanz, Witham, Michael Ambrose, Karen Pittman, Kirk McIntosh and Cleveland Maxwell. The group met regularly after hours at Liberty Graphics, the graphic design and production studio operated from 1983 to 1988 by the partners, Ambrose & Lewis. Evolving what Pittman described as an “improvisation/ overdub method” Jam Cadre manifested in three releases: ”Reproduce at Will (1984), Big Bucks to this Address (1986) and Good Tomatoes (1988),” as well as a limited number of memorable live performances.
Robert continued exploring improvisational musical expressions during his years in Iowa, both solo and with his brother, Mark. Notable among his video/musical works during this period was Two Brothers/One Hundred Years, shot and recorded in La Porte during the town’s centennial in 1996. Produced, videotaped and edited by Robert, Two Brothers features voice over narration by Mark and an expansive, atmospheric soundtrack by the two.
Returned to Austin in May 1997, by the spring of 1998 Robert had begun exploring a new sound art collaboration with John Witham and Karen Pittman, working together as neverthesameriver. In 1999 Pittman departed the formation, and Witham and Stikmanz set aside an unfinished audio album to focus on abstract, evolving, ambient video improvisation. Rich, allusive projections by neverthesameriver were often seen at dance events, primarily those organized by the Texaliens and by Last Laugh LLC, as well as in gallery performances and festival installations. After neverthesameriver ceased activity in 2003, Robert continued working as a solo video artist using the cognomen, stikmanz.
Robert began work on the material that underpins Habdvarsha in 1983. In 1984 he completed a first draft of a first version of Sleeper Awakes, now numbered third in the cycle of fictions. Almost immediately upon completing that draft, Lewis set it aside to focus on Prelude to a Change of Mind, originally envisioned as a short story. By 1986 he was working on both novels in alternation, as well as setting down and consulting the ancient oracle book of the Dvarsh, Nod’s Way. At some point in the course elaborating backstory, he began developing the basics of Dvarsh language and calligraphy. The language actually emerged from exploring ideas about Dvarsh design principles and motifs. A preliminary version of Prelude to a Change of Mind saw light from 2000 to 2006, through the print-on-demand service, Xlibris. At this time, he learned that not one, but several currently active authors publish under his birth name. One of them, a children’s author in the UK, has international presence. For this, among other reasons, Robert decided to adopt his nom de video as a pseudonym for all creative activities from that point forward.
A second, revised edition of Prelude to a Change of Mind was published by a small Austin publishing house in February 2007, that followed in October 2007 with Nod’s Way, oracular wisdom book and another fruit of elaborate backstory. Entranscing, a sort of loose sequel to Prelude to a Change of Mind written under pressure from the publisher, was released in August 2008. A poorly edited version of Sleeper Awakes, third novel in the elastic chronology of the world and source from which all of Habdvarsha has sprung, reached the shelves in June 2009. The relationship with that publisher terminated in spring 2010.
Blue Moose Press published a fully revised third edition of Prelude to a Change of Mind in June 2010, and a second edition of Entranscing before the end of that year, keeping them in print through December 2014. New editions of all three titles are in preparation by Stikmantica.
In September 2015, the first title in the Stikmantica catalog, Rose Moon & Death on the Toilet, enlarged the Habdvarsha canon with two stories—one a novella, the other a short—of Bigger MacGregor, around whom much figures in fictions still to come.
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Austin, TX 78766
E-mail: robert [at] robertstikmanz [dot] com
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