Posted inBooks

The Languages of Bernar Venet’s Conceptual Poetry

Since the outset of his career, Bernar Venet has been an inveterate experimentalist, an intrepid worker in a surprising variety of media. “People know my sculptures, of course,” he says, most likely referring to the monumental steel arcs that have garnered him international renown, “but they don’t know my paintings, my photographs, my films, my poetry and the music I have made.

Posted inPoetry

Long on Ambition: The Public Poem in Books from Rachel Levitsky and Andrew Zawacki

According to Mark Edmundson’s uncritically nostalgic and, by now, notorious article “Poetry Slam: Or, The Decline of American Verse,” which was published in the July 2013 issue of Harper’s, “[o]ur most highly regarded poets—the gang now in their fifties, sixties, and beyond” (such as Sharon Olds, Robert Hass, and Mary Oliver) are, despite their lyric gifts, in a state of bland and unambitious decadence. “At a time when collective issues—communal issues, political issues—are pressing,” argues Edmundson, “the situation of American poetry … [is] timid, small, [and] in retreat.” As can be expected, a range of commentators have already taken Edmundson to task for his gross overgeneralizations and his extremely parochial and outdated understanding of the contemporary scene, but I would like to use his provocation as a starting point and foil to discuss what I take to be one of the most exciting trends in post-millennial American poetics: the importance and evolution of the long poem.

Posted inBooks

Reading the “Nothings that Are”: Craig Dworkin’s “No Medium”

“In No Medium Craig Dworkin looks at works that are blank, erased, clear, or silent … point[ing] to a new understanding of media.” So goes the back cover copy of the author’s new book, which was released in March by MIT Press. This paratextual statement, while certainly catchy, is a bit misleading regarding Dworkin’s argument as well as the actual nature of his objects of study (some of the treated works, such as John Cage’s 4 ’33” and Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings, are well known while many others are not); and it risks obscuring, to some extent, the host of wonderful subtleties, the wily interpretive moves and maneuvers that can be found within the book itself.