What constitutes conceptual writing is still up for debate. For more than a decade, poets and critics have been claiming, reclaiming, or disclaiming the territory of conceptual writing. Who's in? Who's out? What are its limits? Isn't all writing somewhat conceptual? Or, conversely, doesn't the very act of writing preclude any kind of pure conceptuality? But in all the back and forth, two facts remain firm. One, that conceptual writing — however we define that term — has come to represent a new avant-garde in poetry and poetics. And two, that the term conceptual writing alludes to Conceptual art. Now that we're at least eight minutes in to conceptual writing’s fifteen minutes of fame, it’s time to query that relationship. Is poetry just 50 years behind the art world? Or are so-called conceptual writers up to something else? — Katie L. Price
One of the central unified field theories of quantum gravity is string theory or superstring theory, where spacetime is conceived of as an ambiguous ecology. In string theory, the known universe is thought to be part of a larger wilderness of universes, the multiverse, which is comprised of multiple and perhaps infinite dimensions of space and time that are created by collisions between subatomic, vibrating membranes of energy known as open and closed strings. The theory defines the evolution of space and matter from the connections between these vibrating membranes of energy. String theorists aim to reconcile quantum mechanics and relativity into a single description of physical reality that is often referred to in contemporary physics as a Theory of Everything.
Upon reading Christine Wertheim’s mUtter-bAbel (Counterpath Books, 2014), where Wertheim tells the “story of language and some bodies of the word made flesh in a child’s imagination” through visual poems often highlighting the letter “o” that sonically treat words as “vocal organs,” I thought about the open and closed strings in string theory and wondered if the author was—consciously or without intent—responding to the colliding, subatomic, vibrating membranes of energy that string theorists think create the multiple dimensions of the multiverse.
In the early 2000s there were already many innovative writers, writing programs and bookstores in LA. However, the main performance venue for experimental writers, Beyond Baroque, lay on the west side of town, once the artistic center of bohemian LA, but now so wildly expensive no young or fringe writers could possibly live there. These now lived on the east side, where readings were held on an ad hoc basis in nightclubs, bookstores and galleries. We decided to intervene in this state of affairs by creating an annual conference for experimental writing at REDCAT, CalArts downtown arts space. Supported by the CalArts MFA in Writing and a generous grant from The Annenberg Foundation, between 2004 and 2010 we hosted 5 conferences in LA and 1 in NY, composed of daytime panels, evening readings, and workshops. In total, over 100 writers participated from the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK and France, helping to coalesce the nascent LA community. Three of the conferences yielded anthologies, Séance(Make Now Press), The Noulipean Analects(Les Figues Press), and Feminaissance (Les Figues Press).