Since the advent of the internet, advocates and critics alike have heralded the end of the book. And yet, despite the worst efforts of the publishing industry, not only has the book persisted, it has proven to be a particularly elastic form, adept at adapting to remarkable changes in the way we read, write and interpolate narrative.
For centuries the printed book operated as a closed system, invested in concealing the structural processes of writing from the reader. In his now infamous 1992 New York Times article, "The End of Books," Robert Coover observed, “much of the novel's alleged power is embedded in the line, that compulsory author-directed movement from the beginning of a sentence to its period, from the top of the page to the bottom, from the first page to the last.” And yet, as Vannevar Bush astutely commented nearly 50 years earlier in "As We May Think," published in the July 1945 issue of The Atlantic, "the human mind does not work that way. It operates by association.
Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein’s interview with Susan Howe captures their early poems and thinking about Language writing poetics: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E was just over a year old with Number 7 to be published that month. I will investigate this formative moment for the ideas that continue to be crucial, that were effaced, and that enter into productive crisis in the present.
Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein Susan Howe’s WBAI-Pacifica radio show, New York City, March 14, 1979
Andrews and Bernstein sketch the by-now-familiar program of Language writing, an invocation of writing’s “modernist project […] an exploration of the intrinsic qualities of the media […] which from our point of view is language […] not some concocted verse tradition […] through academic discourse and […] book reviewers in The New York Times.” The “repression of knowledge” through such academic and publishing institutions contributes to a deficiency in “people’s awareness of what poetry and what other writing forms there are.” In addition, Andrews and Bernstein interrogate the very idea of genre in writing and propose “less intrinsic reasons for [the novel, philosophy, and poetry to be] separate than for music to be thought of as separate from painting or painting from writing.”
PT#1: William Carlos Williams between walls PT#2: Adrienne Rich won't wait PT#3: George Oppen's ballad PT#4: Allen Ginsberg sings Blake PT#5: Ted Berrigan's "3 Pages" PT#6: Jaap Blonk sound poem PT#7: Jerome Rothenberg's paradise PT#8: Rae Armantrout's "The Way" PT#9: John Ashbery at a crossroads PT#10: one of Gertrude Stein's portraits PT#11: Erica Hunt's "voice of no" PT#12: Ezra Pound's America PT#13: Kathleen Fraser's dangerous highway PT#14: Wallace Stevens at the end PT#15: Lyn Hejinian's change PT#16: Creeley driving the car PT#17: Rodrigo Toscano's political poetics PT#18: Lydia Davis has a position PT#19: Bob Perelman's inner unruly child PT#20: Amiri Baraka's Kenyatta PT#21: Charles Bernstein's restlessness PT#22: Louis Zukofsky begins anew PT#23: Cid Corman really knew terror PT#24: Barbara Guest, a poem about painting PT#25: Alice Notley on the Lower East Side PT#26: wild Vachel Lindsay PT#27: Robert Duncan opens the field PT#28: Jack Spicer to shrink: drop dead PT#29: Kit Robinson ponders mad men PT#30: the W. C. Williams we remember PT#31: Robert Grenier's box of poem-cards PT#32: Susan Howe's Emily Dickinson PT#33: flarfist Sharon Mesmer PT#34: Charles Olson's Maximus PT#35: Bruce Andrews at the center PT#36: J. Scappettone writes through H.D. PT#37: Jena Osman drops leaflets PT#38: Norman Fischer would like to see it PT#39: Etheridge Knight & Gwendolyn Brooks PT#40: Susan Schultz blogs dementia PT#41: Ezra Pound in Venice PT#42: Nathaniel Tarn's eco-poetics PT#43: John Weiners by night PT#44: Fred Wah's race to go PT#45: Eileen Myles does what she teaches PT#46: Jackson Mac Low writes through Ezra
On March 15, 2011, we celebrated the potential of literatures through the Oulipolooza, a Kelly Writers House-style celebration of all things Oulipo. The OuLiPo, or “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle” (workshop of potential literature), is a group of experimental French poets founded in 1960, devoted to exploring the potential of literature, language and freedom through the lenses of different constraints. Oulipolooza included readings about the Oulipo by Jean-Michel Rabaté and Katie Price, a reception full of Oulipo-inspired foods, and the launch of "An Oulipolooza": a collection of oulipian texts.