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Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

POETRY AND LANGUAGE

On the whole, we in the U.S. speak and write in the English language…with the exception, of course, of those who
have kept native tongues. My consideration here is relative to English, as it is written…most particularly, as poetry.

Of late, I’ve been reading some of the theories and work of what has been called the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E school of poetry. Obviously, the focus is on the words themselves…not on the poets’ intention, or prescribed meaning.
This is a very interesting approach. It allows the reader to participate in the process…not merely as a passive receiver. It tends to minimize the power the poet is exerting over the reader. In this sense, it becomes a viable political engagement. We are not being TOLD a narrative or simply given a description. We are being asked to
bring our own consciousness to the process. I like the word “engagement”….it suggests involvement and even a kind of responsibility for our own part in what’s going on. Another aspect of some Language poetry is its digression,
leaping from one focus to another, abruptly…so that the mind is called on to find connections in what appears to be disparate. Here is a language poem:

JOE

JOE

It was written by Robert Grenier, who looked on language as a visual construct. The interpretation given by Bob Perelman is that it is a call. How do you see it? I see it as rounded letters ending in a rigid one. Meaning?
A pleasant memory of a man named Joe. Or…the evocation of all the Joes in the world. So, is language a game?
Perhaps it is. The most important factor to me is that in an effort to communicate accurately we often misinterpret. Language poetry by focusing on the words themselves heightens awareness of the multiplicity of meaning…or meaninglessness…in what is said, or written.

Was Wallace Stevens an early language poet, without portfolio?

“The truth in a calm world/In which there is no other meaning…”

Does language give us meaning…or the other way around? Poetry has long been thought of as a kind of refuge…a sort of psalm or hymn….to assure the restless, vulnerable psyche. It may well be that, but I like to think of it as something more: a challenge to think as an independent thinker. That demands creativity on the part of the reader as well as the poet. Whether language poetry is an answer or not, I cannot say, or whether I particularly enjoy reading it. I do like the challenge, which also says, Meet me on your terms. That is more democratic than what passes for democracy in the world.

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