One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rae Armantrout & Language Poetry

Let's consider all of the people, above and below ground, in the country of Poland: Poles, Russians, Kashubes, Balts, Germans, Jews, Proto-Indo-Europeans, etc.

Now let's consider the same people in another way (intimacy will perhaps move us closer to essence): Ania, Kasia, Andrzej, Wiktor, Katya, Vladimir, Anja, Ludwiga, Birgit, Konrad, Leopold, Abdiel, Abira, etc.


A History of Modern Poetry by David Perkins (Copyright 1987) touches on the '70s--with poets like Baraka, Ashbery, and Merrill--but is silent on Language poetry and its poets.

What is Language poetry? Perhaps historical origins will give us a hint?

An excerpt from Wikipedia (
There is more than one origin of this highly decentered movement. On the West Coast, an early seed of language poetry was the launch of This magazine, edited by Robert Grenier and Watten, in 1971. Coming out of New York, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, edited by Andrews and Bernstein, ran from 1978 to 1982, and featured poetics, forums on writers in the movement, and themes such as "The Politics of Poetry" and "Reading Stein." Equally significant for the understanding of this movement of divergent, though interconnected, poetry practices that emerged in the 1970s was Ron Silliman's poetry newsletter Tottel's (1970–81),[2] and Bruce Andrews's selection in a special issue of Toopick (1973), as well as Lyn Hejinian's editing of Tuumba Press and James Sherry's editing of ROOF magazine. The first significant collection of language-centered poetics was "The Politics of the Referent," edited by Steve McCaffery for the Toronto-based publication, Open Letter (1977). In an essay from the first issue of This, Grenier declared: "I HATE SPEECH". Grenier's ironic statement (itself a speech act), was, in the context of the essay in which it occurred, along with a questioning attitude to the referentiality of language evidenced even in the magazine's title, later claimed by Ron Silliman, in the introduction to his anthology In the American Tree, as an epochal moment—a rallying cry for a number of young U.S. poets who were increasingly dissatisfied with the poetry of the Black Mountain poets and Beat poets.

Within this frame we are to look for Rae Armantrout and her poetry (the same Wikipedia article above links Armantrout with the "first wave of Language poetry"). Will we find either? Probably not. But in reading through Versed I can say I've studied a few of the marks = poems she'll leave behind.

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