Dan Coffey :: Better For You
I've been told
that you are waiting.
I'm waiting to
be told again.
Dan Coffey blogs at http://hyperhypo.org.
Geof Huth :: Two Pwoermds
Geof Huth is a leading critic and creator of visual poetry. He operates the highly trafficked "dbqp", available at http://dbqp.blogspot.com.
Essay :: Geof Huth -- "The Art of Pwoermds"
Minimalist poets work with a tiny number of words in each poem, trying to wrest some eternal insight out of the smallest of spaces. The tendency towards minimalism, which was a hallmark of much of twentieth-century art, seems empty to many people, who see minimalism as an anti-art trick. But minimalism is serious play, making it among the purest of the arts.
The height of minimalism in literature is the pwoermd, a one-word poem that has no title save for itself. The pwoermd must make its effects in the smallest of spaces; the very smallest being the four letters of Aram Saroyan's "Blod." Because of the huge limitations on the creators of pwoermds, these poems are one of the most challenging forms to create successfully. Somehow, the pwoermd must capture our intellectual imagination in the space of a few letters. For this reason, many of the best pwoermds focus on language itself and its illuminating shortcomings. Pwoermds tend to come in many styles, though, just as the creators of pwoermds might be visual poets or haiku poets or language poets.
And "pwoermd" itself? Where does it come from? I created it in 1987 by folding the word "poem" into the word "word." "Pwoermd" is a tiny mouthful to pronounce, but that is not a problem, since it is not a word meant for the air. It is meant for the page, and I see it as a little visual pwoermd itself: the "pw" at the front mirroring the "md" at the end, and in the middle there appears that old poetic "o'er."
Geof Huth is a leading critic and creator of visual poetry. He operates the highly trafficked "dbqp", available at http://dbqp.blogspot.com.
Daniel Zimmerman :: "Ex libris"
these pages swim
in an ocean
they keep swimming
after the ink has gone
Daniel Zimmerman is a contributor.
from the fire-escape
Tom Gilroy lives in New York City where he works in film and theatre. In the last few years he has released the feature film Spring Forward, the books Spring Forward and The Haiku Year, and written for the political blog The Huffington Post.
Minimalist Concrete Poetry
Dan Waber, Editor
MNLMST Poetry: Unacclaimed but Flourishing
by Bob Grumman
Minimalism and Its Expansions
by Karl Young
Shin Yu Pai
T A G !
Shin Yu Pai is a poet, photographer, bookmaker, and editor. Her works include Unnecessary Roughness and Equivalence.
Nobody else knew about the room. It was one of the advantages of wealth, to be able to bring tradesmen in from somewhere distant, tell them what he wanted, have them build it, then leave with their silence well & truly bought. No planning permissions. No records anywhere.
Nobody knew about the paintings he hid there. Nor would they believe it should they have heard. Why would a blind man have paintings?
Wealthy and blind. Or, chronologically, blind & wealthy. An open mind, that allowed him to conceptualise small gadgets that would help the visually impaired, one of which, a vibrating pager on which he held several patents, continued to prove popular in the sighted market. Royalties, riches.
Thus the room. & the paintings. Somewhere he had read about "Guernica", how it screamed with the pain of the aerial bombing that had prompted it. He coveted it, paid a significant part of his fortune, though that was soon replaced, to have it stolen, to have it for himself.
Others followed. Works by Grosz & the German expressionists. Magritte's "The Rape." Munch's "The Scream." A strident collection that was his alone, silent to the outside world, to which he would make his way each night, to listen to the paintings.
Mark Young hails from Australia. He edits the adventurous new 'zine Otoliths and blogs at http://mhcyoung.blogspot.com.
Ira Joel Haber :: Casual Nude #2
Ira Joel Haber's paintings, drawings, and collages will appear regularly here as part of an ongoing minimalist art series.
Paul Nelson :: "American Sentences"
1.23.03 - Mom's advice translated poorly: The stars incline but they do not force.
1.30.03 - @ the library Blunck warns: I wouldn't bring up the morning penis.
2.01.03 - 1st Israeli astronaut immolates over Palestine, Texas.
2.20.03 - Sherry Marx reports of the peace protester who broke a man's nose.
2.22.03 - Raphael says why didn't they just take off the S make it Laughter?
3.21.03 - Ground TOTALLY pink from fallen blossoms except for piles of dog shit.
4.01.03 - P.O.W. freed her home town in West Virginia Palestine.
4.07.03 - Found in Iraq: WEAPONS of MASS DESTRUCTION or maybe pesticides.
4.09.03 - Maintenance man leaves a note says: ...can't fix your faucet its threads are striped.
6.03.03 - Arkansas women dies leaping through her sun roof a mistaken rapture.
6.03.03 - A man dressed as Jesus loses twelve helium-filled blowup sex dolls.
6.09.03 - Is it Breakfast of Champions or Bodhisattva of Compassion.
6.14.03 - Is it an Australian kiss when graffiti says: Kiss Me Down Under?
6.28.03 - She shoots me in the ear I shoot her in the eye our June waterfight.
7.03.03 - Fireworks stand don't sell W.M.D.'s - Brian says: Try the tribe.
7.17.03 - My binoculars scan the coastal mountains then WHOA! A GIANT EAR!
7.17.03 - Mountains receding from the ferry! Rebecca looks & overboard spits.
7.23.03 - We hit a little bump in the driveway Ma says: Ow Pinga Jesus!
7.26.03 - Shape of trees that overhang the boulevard bent by path of trucks.
8.09.03 - Stop sign on Wilson west of Kedzie someone put sticker says: BREEDING.
8.16.03 - Powwow elders lead the Kaya dance - their grandsons wear football jerseys.
9.03.03 - Pro-life murderer Paul Hill today executed in Florida.
9.22.03 - Holly Patterson took RU 486 and aborted herself.
10.27.03 - We play ding-dong-ditch on the Russians w/ our cock-eyed Jack-O-Lantern.
11.17.03 - Our Jack-O-Lanterns were like two old men dying in a splash of guts.
11.22.03 - w/ serious faces they all wait outside the hospital & smoke.
Paul Nelson is a writer. Visit his websites at www.globalvoicesradio.org and www.americansentencs.com.
Jesse Patrick Ferguson is a poet, musician and graduate student currently residing in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He is the author of four poetry chapbooks, most recently catch a bird (above/ground, 2006). He is on the editorial boards of Bywords and The Fiddlehead.
Review :: Nico Vassilakis, "Concrete Movies"
Nico Vassilakis :: Concrete Movies
Wielding the camera like an itinerant madman lost in an art house nightmare, Nico Vassilakis presents his vision of language and its written incarnations as latticework which can be admired on a purely aesthetic level. In five video-poems which combine to last roughly an hour, he amputates letter from word and meaning from language. Set to silence – the perfect soundtrack – which first startles, then envelopes, and finally crushes viewers, Concrete Movies is a snail slow drift through a dense wilderness of shapes and symbols.
Soft, fuzzy shots and impossible close-ups typify the unique style of cinematography. Letters gurgle and bulge across the screen. Alien characters and loopy squiggles materialize at random. The movies often dissolve into eddies of thickly layered color. Then, as if driven by a will of its own, a lone 's' or 'q' will make its way across the screen. This is language ballet. Rarely are full words visible, sentences are obscured by unexplained visual phenomena. Vassilakis' work proves to be minimalist in both scope and presentation
Despite being a self-release, Concrete Movies is excellently produced and packaged. The cover is bare: To the top the title; to the bottom classic typewriter vispo. Inside, a thin mini-booklet names the individual films and gives their respective lengths. Open it and find a jagged four page stream of consciousness prose-poem: 'im drinking to stop the hurt, I will sit in a safer place, I will no longer hurt and eat my skin, if all goes well I will no longer hurt…'
Released last year, Concrete Movies was well received by the experimental arts community and has garnered applause from vispoets across the country. Screened at numerous shows (including SoundVision/VisionSound III, June '05), it is pioneering material from a solid name. These films are clear hints at wall art to come. Who among us cannot imagine a day when peeling portraits and yellowing photographs give way to swirling, digital tapestries of color, symbol, and language, and would not such constant motion would be an appropriate reflection of our age?
After the placemat come the feet. Nico Vassilakis' visual concrete work is shown widely. Leave enough room for animals. Leave animals alone. He is currently working on a play about Morton Feldman.
Avery Burns runs the Canessa Park Reading Series in San Francisco and co-edits the magazine 26 (Issue E forthcoming in April 06). His chapbook A Duelling Primer was just reprinted in An Apparent Event: a Second Story Books Anthology.
Andy Gricevich :: "MYSTICISM"
rocks just sit there
no shortcuts anywhere
in southern california
Andy Gricevich lives in Madison, WI. Besides writing poetry, he performs political theater, strange chamber music, and movement pieces with the Nonsense Company, as well as satirical cabaret songs with the Prince Myshkins.
Aram Saroyan Interview
Dirt: The poems of your first, eponymous collection aren't easy to pin down. Some call them flashes of Buddhist tinged insight; others dismiss them as salvaged typos. When you look back all these years later, how do view your minimalism and skin-n-bones concrete poetry?
Aram Saroyan: My big early influence was Robert Creeley, who was very generous about letting me in on a sort of living tradition, as he himself had learned it, and as he then helped it to evolve. He mentioned Zukofsky to me right away, and Ian Hamiltion Finlay, who at the time, 1964, had a magazine called 'Poor. Old. Tired. Horse.'—which is a line in an early Creeley poem, so either Finlay got it there or Creeley took it from Finlay—and that magazine, a sort of poetry newsletter, had concrete poetry in it, which I’d never heard of before, and took to immediately. I was 21, and those are years when you take things in so easily, you're very open, and I started playing in that genre, sort of riffing off concrete poetry motifs I found in the magazine, and then got carried away on my own. A lot of my better known concrete poems, like 'eyeye', were written very early on.
Ted Berrigan, who was about ten years older than I was and a sort of mentor, saw that poem one night among a sheaf of papers I had with me at Le Metro Coffee House, where we used to read our poetry on Wednesday nights—it was right around the corner from St. Mark's Church, where the Poetry Project started up a year or two later…Ted saw that poem and said in this slow, wry drawl that he had: 'What the fuck is this?' and laughed quietly. That was a promising response, I thought.
D: You mentioned Finlay before. Is it safe to assume that your work was shaped by artists operating outside the realm of poetry? Beyond that, who were your early influences?
AS: My first big interest, pre-dating poetry, was photography (see my book Words and Photographs, Big Table, 1970), and for a while I had a sort of unspoken agenda, perhaps only half-conscious: I wanted to make a poem as immediate as a photograph. Eventually I realized the immediacy of a photograph had to do with it being instantaneous, and a poem necessarily has a reading process. However, a one-word poem, or a two word poem, and maybe a slightly longer one, is virtually instant, has virtually no reading process. I was influenced too by Warhol and the sculptor Donald Judd, and American advertising. I wanted a poem that would look good on a billboard:
And this was the Sixties, so it was sort of in the atmosphere. You're young, and the economy is still in a sort of boom phase, and you're discovering who you are, what you like. There was a nice period in there before things got dark in the later Sixties.
D: Which of your early poems holds the most resonance for you now?
AS: One of my favorite pieces is from Aram Saroyan:
It transcribes a specific small event: I was living in a two story house in Cambridge, Mass., and my room was on the second floor, and I found a leaf in the room, and the poem sort of transcribes the cognitive process I went through picking it up and wondering about it. That's it, it's nothing much, but it's the mind negotiating word by word toward some sort of understanding. Another similar piece is from the section 'Sled
Hill Voices' in Pages:
something moving in the garden a cat
In this one it's another cognitive incident in which for a moment the eye is looking without knowing what it's seeing and then it knows. So it's an infinitesimal time frame in which something happens between the senses and the mind. I think those pieces are interesting sort of neurological transcriptions, a kind of realism that has to do with very small time frames.
D: I've heard that 'lighght', perhaps your most (in)famous poem, was the result of a typing error. Can you give that rumor a thumbs up or down?
AS: No, that one wasn't a typo (one or two others may have been). The poem adds an extra 'gh' to the word light—a silent addition that adds an element to the word as if to make the phenomenon more palpable, as if the word holds the phenomenon. I could have added another 'gh', so it would have been 'lighghght,' which I think is more than is needed, or I could have done it—as it's sometimes misspelled on the internet —'lightght, ' which doesn’t work at all by my lights (no pun intended).
I had an interesting experience a few years ago when I thought I'd do a Christmas card of the word, embossed white on white. What I discovered was that if the word is embossed then the extra 'gh' isn't necessary, because embossing makes for the equivalent palpable effect.
D: What about the fierce reaction from social and political pundits – a furor that persists to this day – over your recognition by the National Endowment for the Arts for 'lighght'?
AS: I comment on that in my piece, 'Flower Power,' which you can take a look at on my website (www.aramsaroyan.com) under the Works link. At the time, it seemed silly and self-serving, a tempest in a teapot, as it still does, but it certainly got the poem around.
D: These tiny poems are so delicate. It often strikes me that they could only have been born from a moment of overwhelming 'subtle perception.' What was the creation process like?
AS: It's that thing about catching yourself thinking, which Allen Ginsberg talks about—mindfulness, to use a Buddhist word. It was a good early callisthenic for me as a writer.
D: So you're writing these poems near the peak of Sixties turbulence. The burning ghettos, the kids marching in the streets, the cops kicking ass, the sudden wave of political killings…the country is on edge. Do you find an element of reaction in the Aram Saroyan poems?
AS: Broadly speaking, there were two primary cadres of the Sixties generation. There were the 'flower power,' more or less apolitical people—who didn't respond to Bob Dylan, for instance, until his Bringing It All Back Home album—and there were the political people, who may have regarded that album as a betrayal of the social protest movements of the period. I was conscious of the social and political inequities and most of us were against the war in Vietnam, but as an artist I was apolitical. In retrospect, I think I got caught up by what I was exploring in those small poems and didn't really look up for a couple of years.
D: My favorite poem of yours is 'A man stands on his head…' Its tone and diction, its amazing direction continue to captivate me. What's the back story?
AS: As I got into language, I would sometimes see and feel it as a medium with its own rules, its own laws and limits, and during the Sixties, one had a sort of permission to play with that a bit, sometimes to look at it in a half-comic light. That particular poem has a straight cause and effect scenario.
a man stands
So it's sort of Newtonian. But if you stand on your head—as I learned to do in grammar school and consider an important lesson of my education—and then, after a minute, come back to being right side up and sit down, you feel differently than you felt before you did it. And that's sort of Einsteinian, if you will. And this part of the poem, the second stanza, takes liberties with grammar to register a bit of the subjective effect, the verb 'sit' and the adverb 'different' being incorrect grammatically, trying to render a sort of physical traction into the surface of the poem.
D: For those readers who are more familiar with the Aram Saroyan of Ubuweb and Princeton's Eclipse site, tell us what you've been up to since the Seventies.
AS: Well, again, let me refer you to my website. I've published a lot of books in a variety of other genres—novels, biographies, essays, short stories, etc.. Most recently I did a series of plays. I also went on being a poet. My book Day and Night: Bolinas Poems (Black Sparrow, 1998), collects the poems I wrote from 1972 to 1981, very few of which are minimal. And I have a third manuscript called Autumn, comprised of poems written from 1987 through 2003.
D: Whose poetry do you enjoy today?
AS: I like very much the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, and admired Louise Gluck's poems in The Wild Iris, and I find good poems here and there all the time. Generally speaking, though, the literary culture seems a bit locked down at the moment. However, there are always wonderful poets around, doing their work.
For further reading, visit Mr. Saroyan's website at www.aramsaroyan.com.