This essay originally appeared in Foreign Language Studies (Wuhan, China, April 2017, 39:2) and is forthcoming in a Chinese translation in Poetry Exploration (诗探索, Beijing). It is reprinted here with the permission of the author.
Abstract: This essay explicates three principles of Charles Bernstein’s avant-garde poetics while reflecting on his new book Pitch of Poetry, highlighting the contribution of Bernstein, as a leading figure of language poetry, to avant-garde poetics in the West. The first of the three principles is nonstop exploration. Bernstein is now a well-established figure. However, he insists, “Our journeys don’t end, our business is unfinished,” and has been consistently carrying out exploration in the field of avant-garde poetics. The second is poetics of organization.
Presented as the plenary lecture at the first meeting of the European Stein Network in Paris on November 26, 2016. The meeting was organized by Isabelle Alfandary (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Vincent Broqua (Université Paris 8). My three frames in approaching this volatile and vexing subject are factual evidence, historical context, and material text. This presentation is meant to follow up on “Gertrude Stein’s War Years; Setting the Record Straight,” a dossier I edited for Jacket2 in 2012. One of many questions I ask here: Why was Stein subjected to such virulent scorn when her family art collection was shown at the Met (with no focus on her own work) while Picabia, subject of a full-scale retrospective of his work, was not?
“The Language Writing Collection comprises approximately 1,200 items including books, pamphlets, magazines, broadsides, manuscripts, letters, and ephemera, presenting a rigorous and comprehensive survey of the most influential American avant-garde literary development of the last 50 years. The Collection chronicles the group’s inception in the seventies, maturation in the eighties, and influence through the nineties and beyond, and provides the basis for in-depth scholarly research in recent experimental poetry and poetics; literary production and community; and independent small press publishing. The work of nearly 50 poets central to Language Writing has been collected along with more than 50 runs of little magazines associated with the movement.” — from the Granary Books Prospectus.
Eleni Stecopoulos’ brilliantly provocative, syncretic manifesto, Visceral Poetics, identifies idiopathic disease with ideolectical poetics, pathology with anomaly – the flesh of the text and the text of the flesh — bringing home the liberatory potential for visceral readings of the unintelligible. For Stecopoulos, diagnosis is a practice of aesthetic translation and poetry a quest for knowledge outside the disabling strictures of Western rationalism. Written in lyric bursts of telegraphic intensity, Stecopoulos follows her guides, Artaud and Metcalf, through veils of suffering in order to repossess, from the jaws of evisceration, her own life — and ours.