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L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry

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					                            L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry
                                                                          Alyssa Johnson
                                                                          Rachel Millard

History:
    A postmodernist movement that came out of the New American poets in the
       1970’s and 1980’s. (The New American poets included the Beats, the Black
       Mountain Poets, the New York Poets, and the San Francisco Renaissance.)
    Barrett Watten and Robert Grenier publish This magazine in 1971. (Often seen as
       the beginning of the movement.)
    In it, Grenier wrote his essay “I HATE SPEECH” (which was later borrowed
       from in the introduction to In the American Tree). This essay became something
       like a call-to-arms to the poets who were unhappy with the work of their
       contemporaries/predecessors (namely, the Beats and Black Mountain Poets, as
       well as the New York School.)
    The publication of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine from 1978 to 1982 was
       also pivotal, as well as the publication of other literary magazines in the 1970’s
       and 1980’s, which opened the door to the discussion, essays, and poetry that made
       up the movement.
    Additionally, poetry readings (mostly in New York and San Francisco) provided
       venues for collaboration and more discussion.

Principles, Ideas, and Characteristics:
    The movement was heavily influenced by Getrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky.
           o Stein’s influence came from the fact that, in her writing, she often tried to
               rid her language of all reference.
    Fundamentally, Language poets believe that the language used in a poem dictates
       its meaning, rather than the other way around.
    Language poets play with the structures/codes of language. (Ie, the way language
       is used to formulate and convey thoughts, ideas, and meaning.)
    They believe that poetry is done rather than interpreted. (Though they will discuss
       each other’s work, they will never “interpret” it.)
    Language poets were dissatisfied with the poetry of the Beats and Black Mountain
       poets, as well as the New York School and the Confessionals. Among other
       things, they didn’t approve of how much the poets put themselves into their
       poetry.
           o Therefore, Language poets removed all sense of the poet from their work
               and tried deliberately to make their work anti-narrative or “nonnarrative.”
           o Sometimes, they attempt to write about personal subjects, but remove any
               reference to the personal.
           o Charles Bernstein believed that voice was merely “a privileged structure”
               when it came to interpreting poems.
    Some poets used mathematical sequences and other similar functions to structure
       their poetry.
    They are experimental, trying to practice conditions that promote nonsense,
       “unmeaning,” and fragmentation.
           o They are said to fracture the language in almost political rebellion against
               what they see as the oppressive force of the English language.
           o They break up sentences, phrases, and words in strange and interesting
               ways in order to rid language of its banality.
           o They shatter a poem’s surface regularities in order to purposefully
               interrupt the “normal” reading process.
                    Ex: (From The Lives of Toll Takers, p. 911)
                   mea
                                                               nt
      They will try such experimental things as writing a piece using only words found
       on a single page of the dictionary (Tina Darragh.) These experiments will always
       be structured yet arbitrary.
           o Bernadette Mayer’s “Experiments” outlined some ideas for such
               experiments, such as: “Systematically derange the language, for example,
               write a work consisting only of prepositional phrases, or, add a gerundive
               to every line of an already existing piece of prose or poetry, etc.”
      Charles Bernstein wrote “there is no natural writing style.”
           o What is perceived as “normal writing,” the Language poets argue is
               actually social conformity to a specific mode of writing

The Poets:
Barrett Watten
   - Editor of This and Poetics Journal (with Lyn Hejinian)
   - Author of Progress (1985), Opera—Works, Decay, 1-10, Plasma/Parallels/―X‖,
        Complete Thought, Conduit, and more
   - Teaches modernism and cultural studies at Wayne State University in Detroit
Lyn Hejinian
   - Co-editor of Poetics Journal, editor of Tuumba Press
   - Author of several books of poetry, including: My Life (1980), Writing Is and Aid
        to Memory (1978), and A Thought Is the Bride of What Thinking (1976)
   - Also wrote The Language of Inquiry, a collection of essays that address language
        and poetics
Charles Bernstein
   - His poems and essays have been published in over 500 magazines and periodicals
   - Editor of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E
   - He is the author of 39 books of poetry, essays, translations, and collaborations
   - Currently the Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of
        Pennsylvania
Not to mention:
Michael Palmer, Ron Silliman, Bob Perelman, Steve Benson, Carla Harryman, Tom
Mandel, Kit Robinson, Rae Armantrout, Ted Pearson, Robert Grenier, James Sherry,
Abigail Child, Bernadette Mayer, James Sherry, Hannah Weiner, Jean Day, Susan Howe,
and lots more!

The Texts:
Major works
   -   Anthologies: The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book (1984) edited by Charles
       Bernstein and In the American Tree (1986) edited by Ron Silliman
   -   Bob Perelman’s Writing/Talks (1984) and Barrett Watten’s Total Syntax (1985)
   -   “The New Sentence” by Silliman
   -   “Semblance” by Bernstein

Literary Magazines
    - This – edited by Barrett Watten
    - Poetics Journal – edited by Barrett Watten and Lyn Hejinian, 1982-1998
    - L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E – edited by Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews, ran
       from 1978-1982
    - Tottle’s –Ron Silliman’s poetry newsletter, 1970-1981

Criticism of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry:
   - Narcissistic and a gimmick
   - Tom Clark’s article “Stalin as Linguist”
           o “This is the kind of mumbo jumbo you’d hear from a guy who stumbled
              into a linguistics lecture one day, and walked out an instant expert the
              next.”

The Legacy of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry:
   - The Grand Piano – First volume published in 2006, collective autobiography by
      10 of the original L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets from San Francisco
   - Contemporary tendencies that carry on the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E tradition:
          o Conceptual Writing - attacks the idea of the writer being in control over
              his work
          o Flarf - plays with the idea of purposely writing poorly, utilizes the lower
              quality of content that comes from the internet
   - Many of the main poets are still alive and active members of the poetry
      community.


                                     Bibliography

“A Brief Guide to Language Poetry.” Poets.Org. The Academy of American Poets. 2
       Nov. 2007. < http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5661>.
“Author Profile: Charles Bernstein, Event: June 10, 1986.” The Kootenay School of
       Writing. 4 Nov. 2007. <http://kswnet.org/fire/
       author_profile_page.cfm?authorchoice=11&eventchoice=17>.
“Barrett Watten.” Wikipedia. 16 Oct. 2007. 4 Nov. 2007. <http://en.wikipedia.org/
       wiki/Barrett_Watten>.
“Bernstein Author Home Page.” Electronic Poetry Center. 2 Nov. 2007.
       <http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/bernstein/index.html>.
Hartley, George. “Textual Politics and the Language Poets” (excerpts).
       www.writing.upenn.edu. 1989.<http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/
       88v/hartley.html>
Kim, Eleana. “Language Poetry: Dissident Practices and the Makings of a Movement.”
        Readme. No. 4 (Spring / Summer 2001). 3 Nov. 2007. <http://home.jps.net/
        ~nada/language1.htm>.
“L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Magazine.” Eclipse. 2 Nov. 2007. <http://english.utah.edu/
        eclipse/projects/LANGUAGE/language.html>.
“Language Poets.” Wikipedia. 31 Oct. 2007. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
        Language_poets>
Lehto, Leevi. “In the Un-American Tree; The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetries and Their
        Aftermath, with a Special Reference to Charles Bernstein Translated.” Leevi
        Leheto. 2 Nov. 2007. <http://www.leevilehto.net/
        default.asp?a=1&b=8&c=13&d=10>.
 “Lyn Hejinian Bio notes & bibliography.” Electronic Poetry Center. 2 Nov. 2007.
        <http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/hejinian/biobiblio.html>.
McGann, Jerome J. “Contemporary Poetry, Alternate Routes.” www.writing.upenn.edu.
        1988.<http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/mcgann.html>
Perloff, Marjorie. “Language Poetry and the Lyric Subject: Ron Silliman’s Albany, Susan
        Howe’s Buffalo.” Critical Inquiry: Vol. 25, No. 3. 1999.
“The Avant-garde and Language Poetry.” Cambridge University. Apr. 2007.
        <http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~tpl/texts/movements.html>

				
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