Saturday, July 14, 2007

Probably the first use of the term Language Poets was applied to the group in Ron Silliman's anthology "In the American Tree" which included Andrews, Coolidge, Grenier, himself, and other. And those published in Language magazine - including Watten and Hejinian. The work was refered to as "language-centered, minimal, and non-referential formalism. Not a group, but a tendency of many." Silliman writes of "Rejecting a speech-based poetics and consciously raising the issue of reference (i.e. narrative) to look at what a poem is actually made of - not images, not voice, not character or plot - but the invocation of a specific medium - language. (And) if nothing in the poem could be taken for granted, then anything might be possible."

Perhaps "non-referiality" is the wrong term. The idea of non-referiality in the purest sense does not exist because the words (unless nonsense) will always point to something. JLM writes, " Then, perhaps the term "non-referential" implies that disjunct 'references' and intentions' do not add up; if you say 'dog, watermelon, racine, Wisconsin, Jupiter, to quarter above the...' each member of the string has meaning in itself, but the string as a whole does not." But, even LP are not this extreme. I am not sure that a poem CAN be written without intent. JML writes, "I doubt that any such works, whether aleatoric or conciously composed through calculation or intuition are truly ' empty' of all content, even when the authors have none in mind - when they do not intend to say or imitate anything. Thus, it may be correct to call such verbal ways 'perceiver centered' rather than 'language centered.' This is asking the reader to take an active part, to use her imagination, and move away from the accademic notion that there is a teacher who 'gets' the poem and will teach it's exact meaning.

This, by the way, is the reason that poetry is in a state of crisis in America. The general population is not taught that you can or should read poetry on a visceral or emotional level. School teaches - per-k through grad school - that there is meaning specific to the poem that the reader must get correct. This has led to the fact that even the most intellegent people in our country (and people who do read) do not read poetry. LP force the reader, in my opinion, to respond viscerally, because the story is so slight.

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