Must poetic form be, as Yeats demanded, "full, sphere-like, single," or can it accommodate the impurities Yeats and his Modernist generation found so problematic? Sixty years later, these are still open questions, questions Marjorie Perloff addresses in these essays.
A new collection of essays from a distinguished critic of contemporary poetry
Marjorie Perloff is one of the foremost critics of contemporary American poetry writing today. Her works are credited by many with creating and sustaining new critical interest not only in the work of major modernist poets such as Yeats, Pound, Eliot, and Williams but also in the postwar tradition of American poetic innovation that ranges from the Black Mountain poets, through the New York School and concrete poetry, to the Language Poets of the 1980s and '90s.
In Differentials, Perloff explores and defends her belief in the power of close reading, a strategy often maligned as reactionary in today's critical climate but which, when construed differentially, is vital, she believes, to any true understanding of a literary or poetic work, irrespective of how traditional or experimental it is. Perloff also examines key issues in modernism, from Eliot's conservative poetics and Pound's nominalism to translation theory (Wittgenstein, Eugene Jolas, Haroldo de Campos), and the contemporary avant garde, as represented by writers like Susan Howe, Tom Raworth, Rae Armantrout, Ron Silliman, Ronald Johnson, Caroline Bergvall, and Kenneth Goldsmith.
Ultimately, Perloff's most important offerings in Differentials are her remarkably original reflections on the aesthetic process: on how poetry works, and what it means, in and for our time.
Among the brilliant writers and thinkers who emerged from the multicultural and multilingual world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were Joseph Roth, Robert Musil, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. For them, the trauma of World War I included the sudden loss of the geographical entity into which they had been born: in 1918, the empire was dissolved overnight, leaving Austria a small, fragile republic that would last only twenty years before being annexed by Hitler’s Third Reich. In this major reconsideration of European modernism, Marjorie Perloff identifies and explores the aesthetic world that emerged from the rubble of Vienna and other former Habsburg territories—an “Austro-Modernism” that produced a major body of drama, fiction, poetry, and autobiography.
Perloff explores works ranging from Karl Kraus’s drama The Last Days of Mankind and Elias Canetti’s memoir The Tongue Set Free to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s notebooks and Paul Celan’s lyric poetry. Throughout, she shows that Austro-Modernist literature is characterized less by the formal and technical inventions of a modernism familiar to us in the work of Joyce and Pound, Dada and Futurism, than by a radical irony beneath a seemingly conventional surface, an acute sense of exile, and a sensibility more erotic and quixotic than that of its German contemporaries. Skeptical and disillusioned, Austro-Modernism prefers to ask questions rather than formulate answers.
Drawing extensively upon the poet's unpublished manuscripts—poems, journals, essays, and letters—as well as all his published works, Marjorie Perloff presents Frank O'Hara as one of the central poets of the postwar period and an important critic of the visual arts. Perloff traces the poet's development through his early years at Harvard and his interest in French Dadaism and Surrealism to his later poems that fuse literary influence with elements from Abstract Expressionist painting, atonal music, and contemporary film. This edition contains a new Introduction addressing O'Hara's homosexuality, his attitudes toward racism, and changes in poetic climate cover the past few decades.
"A groundbreaking study. [This book] is a genuine work of criticism. . . . Through Marjorie Perloff's book we see an O'Hara perhaps only his closer associates saw before: a poet fully aware of the traditions and techniques of his craft who, in a life tragically foreshortened, produced an adventurous if somewhat erratic body of American verse."—David Lenson, Chronicle of Higher Education
"Perloff is a reliable, well-informed, discreet, sensitive . . . guide. . . . She is impressive in the way she deals with O'Hara's relationship to painters and paintings, and she does give first-rate readings of four major poems."—Jonathan Cott, New York Times Book Review
Marjorie Perloff's stunning book was one of the first to offer a serious and far-reaching examination of the momentous flourishing of Futurist aesthetics in the European art and literature of the early twentieth century. Offering penetrating considerations of the prose, visual art, poetry, and carefully crafted manifestos of Futurists from Russia to Italy, Perloff reveals the Moment's impulses and operations, tracing its echoes through the years to the work of "postmodern" figures like Roland Barthes. This updated edition, with its new preface, reexamines the Futurist Moment in the light of a new century, in which Futurist aesthetics seem to have steadily more to say to the present.
Edward Dorn Duke University Press, 1968 Library of Congress PS3507.O73277G8 2018
Fiftieth Anniversary Edition
"Gunslinger is a fundamental American masterpiece."---Thomas McGuane
This fiftieth anniversary edition commemorates Edward Dorn’s masterpiece, Gunslinger, a comic, anti-epic critique of American capitalism that still resonates today. Set in the American West, the Gunslinger, his talking horse Claude Lévi-Strauss, a saloon madam named Lil, and the narrator called “I” set out in search of the billionaire Howard Hughes. As they travel along the Rio Grande to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and finally on to Colorado, they are joined by a whole host of colorful characters: Dr. Jean Flamboyant, Kool Everything, and Taco Desoxin and his partner Tonto Pronto. During their adventures and hijinks, as captured in Dorn’s multilayered, absurd, and postmodern voice, they joke and smoke their way through debates about the meaning of existence. Put simply, Gunslinger is an American classic.
In a new foreword Marjorie Perloff discusses Gunslinger's continued relevance to contemporary politics. This new edition also includes a critical essay by Michael Davidson and Charles Olson’s idiosyncratic “Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn,” which he wrote to provide guidance for Dorn's study of, and writing about, the American West.
Esteemed literary critic Marjorie Perloff reconsiders the nature of the poetic, examining its visual, grammatical, and sound components.
The “infrathin” was Marcel Duchamp’s playful name for the most minute shade of difference: that between the report of a gunshot and the appearance of the bullet hole, or between two objects in a series made from the same mold. “Eat” is not the same thing as “ate.” The poetic, Marjorie Perloff suggests, can best be understood as the language of infrathin. For in poetry, whether in verse or prose, words and phrases that are seemingly unrelated in ordinary discourse are realigned by means of sound, visual layout, etymology, grammar, and construction so as to “make it new.”
In her revisionist “micropoetics,” Perloff draws primarily on major modernist poets from Stein and Yeats to Beckett, suggesting that the usual emphasis on what this or that poem is “about,” does not do justice to its infrathin possibilities. From Goethe’s eight-line “Wanderer’s Night Song” to Eliot’s Four Quartets, to the minimalist lyric of Rae Armantrout, Infrathin is designed to challenge our current habits of reading and to answer the central question: what is it that makes poetry poetry?
John Cage: Composed in America
Edited by Marjorie Perloff and Charles Junkerman University of Chicago Press, 1994 Library of Congress ML410.C24J55 1994 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
When the great avant-gardist John Cage died, just short of his eightieth birthday in 1992, he was already the subject of dozens of interviews, memoirs, and discussions of his contribution to music, music theory, and performance practice. But Cage never thought of himself as only (or even primarily) a composer; he was a poet, a visual artist, a philosophical thinker, and an important cultural critic.
John Cage: Composed in America is the first book-length work to address the "other" John Cage, a revisionist treatment of the way Cage himself has composed and been "composed" in America. Cage, as these original essays testify, is a contradictory figure. A disciple of Duchamp and Schoenberg, Satie and Joyce, he created compositions that undercut some of these artists' central principles and then attributed his own compositional theories to their "tradition." An American in the Emerson-Thoreau mold, he paradoxically won his biggest audience in Europe. A freewheeling, Californian artist, Cage was committed to a severe work ethic and a firm discipline, especially the discipline of Zen Buddhism.
Following the text of Cage's lecture-poem "Overpopulation and Art," delivered at Stanford shortly before his death and published here for the first time, ten critics respond to the challenge of the complexity and contradiction exhibited in his varied work. In keeping with Cage's own interdisciplinarity, the critics approach that work from a variety of disciplines: philosophy (Daniel Herwitz, Gerald L. Bruns), biography and cultural history (Thomas S. Hines), game and chaos theory (N. Katherine Hayles), music culture (Jann Pasler), opera history (Herbert Lindenberger), literary and art criticism (Marjorie Perloff), cultural poetics (Gordana P. Crnkovic, Charles Junkerman), and poetic practice (Joan Retallack). But such labels are themselves confining: each of the essays sets up boundaries only to cross them at key points. The book thus represents, to use Cage's own phrase, a much needed "beginning with ideas."
In Poetic License, Marjorie Perloff insists that despite the recent interest in "opening up the canon," our understanding of poetry and poetics is all too often rutted in conventional notions of the lyric that shed little light on what poets and artists are actually doing today. On topics ranging from general problems of canonicity to the critical evaluation of such poets as Plath, Ginsberg, and others, Perloff introduces nonconventional ideas of the nature of poetic texts and reframes the discussion of postmodern "paratexts." Her discussion reformulates basic presuppositions of what poetry is and what it can do and leads us to see the great possibilities still open to lyric poetry at a time when, as Yeats predicted, "the center cannot hold."
Marjorie Perloff writes in her preface to Poetics in a New Key that when she learned David Jonathan Y. Bayot wanted to publish a collection of her interviews and essays, she was “at once honored and mystified.” But to Perloff’s surprise and her readers’ delight, the resulting assembly not only presents an accessible and provocative introduction to Perloff’s critical thought, but also highlights the wide range of her interests, and the energetic reassessments and new takes that have marked her academic career.
The fourteen interviews in Poetics in a New Key—conducted by scholars, poets, and critics from the United States, Denmark, Norway, France, and Poland, including Charles Bernstein, Hélène Aji, and Peter Nicholls—cover a broad spectrum of topics in the study of poetry: its nature as a literary genre, its current state, and its relationship to art, politics, language, theory, and technology. Also featured in the collection are three pieces by Perloff herself: an academic memoir, an exploration of poetry pedagogy, and an essay on twenty-first-century intellectuals. But across all the interviews and essays, Perloff’s distinctive personality and approach to reading and talking resound, making this new collection an inspiring resource for scholars both of poetry and writing.
In her seminal study, first published in 1981, Marjorie Perloff argues that the map of Modernist poetry needs to be redrawn to include a central tradition which cannot properly be situated within the Romantic-Symbolist tradition dominating the early twentieth century.
The fourteen essays that make up this collection have as their common theme a reconsideration of the role historical and cultural change has played in the evolution of twentieth-century poetry and poetics. Committed to the notion that, in John Ashbery's words, "You can't say it that way anymore," Poetry On & Off the Page describes the formations and transformations of literary and artistic discourses, and traces these discourses as they have evolved in their dialogue with history, culture, and society. The volume is testimony to the important role that contemporary artistic practice will continue to play as we move into the twenty-first century.
How the negotiation between poetic and media discourses takes place is the subject of Marjorie Perloff's groundbreaking study. Radical Artifice considers what happens when the "natural speech" model inherited from the great Modernist poets comes up against the "natural speech" of the Donahue "talk show," or again, how visual poetics and verse forms are responding to the languages of billboards and sound bytes. Among the many poets whose works are discussed are John Ashbery, George Oppen, Susan Howe, Clark Coolidge, Lyn Hejinian, Leslie Scalapino, Charles Bernstein, Johanna Drucker, and Steve McCaffery. But the strongest presence in Perloff's book is John Cage, a "poet" better known as a composer, a philosopher, a printmaker, and one who understood, almost half a century ago, that from now on no word, musical note, painted surface, or theoretical statement could ever again escape "contamination" from the media landscape in which we live. It is under his sign that Radical Artifice was composed.
"What have I in common with Jews? I hardly have anything in common with myself!"
Kafka's quip--paradoxical, self-questioning, ironic--highlights vividly some of the key issues of identity and self-representation for Jewish writers in the 20th century. No group of writers better represents the problems of Jewish identity than Jewish poets writing in the American modernist tradition--specifically secular Jews: those disdainful or suspicious of organized religion, yet forever shaped by those traditions.
This collection of essays is the first to address this often obscured dimension of modern and contemporary poetry: the secular Jewish dimension. Editors Daniel Morris and Stephen Paul Miller asked their contributors to address what constitutes radical poetry written by Jews defined as "secular," and whether or not there is a Jewish component or dimension to radical and modernist poetic practice in general. These poets and critics address these questions by exploring the legacy of those poets who preceded and influenced them--Stein, Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Oppen, and Ginsberg, among others.
While there is no easy answer for these writers about what it means to be a Jew, in their responses there is a rich sense of how being Jewish reflects on their aesthetics and practices as poets, and how the tradition of the avant-garde informs their identities as Jews. Fragmented identities, irony, skepticism, a sense of self as "other" or "outsider," distrust of the literal, and belief in a tradition that questions rather than answers--these are some of the qualities these poets see as common to themselves, the poetry they make, and the tradition they work within.
Songs of Degrees brings together 19 related essays on contemporary American poetry and poetics, published as journal articles between 1975 and 1989, by poet and theorist John Taggart. Over the past two decades, Taggart has been a significant intellectual and artistic force for a number of major American poets. By focusing on the work of several major and less well-known American experimental poets from the 1930s to the present, Taggart not only traces the origins and evolution of this experimental tendency in recent poetry, but also develops new theoretical tools for reading and appreciating these innovative and complex works.
The essays are written from the engaged perspective of an active poet for other poets, as well as for those who would like to read and think about poetry in a participatory fashion. The essays thus present “inside narratives” of some of the most challenging contemporary American poetry.
The range of Songs of Degrees extends from the Black Mountain poets Charles Olson and Robert Duncan to such “language poets as Bruce Andres and Susan Howe. Taggart closely examines the work of the objectivist poets George Oppen and Louis Zukofsky. Three essays are devoted to each of these poets, providing detailed readings of individual poems and considerations of each poet’s overall achievement. Taggart also concentrates on poets whose work has not been widely recognized or is only now beginning to be recognized. These include Theodore Enslin, Frank Samperi, and William Bronk. Taggart’s essay “Reading William Bronk” is the first extensive reading of this relatively unknown but truly outstanding poet.
Taggart’s essays also focus on his own poetry. He describes the composition process and the thinking behind it, as well as the poet’s own evolving sense of what the poem can and ought to be. These very personal reflections are unique in their attention to current questions concerning form and the issue of spiritual vision. Avoiding political and cultural reductionism, Taggart throughout keeps his eye—and heart—on the poetic, singing his own “Songs of Degrees,” even as he discovers notes of the same music in the works of other.
Sound—one of the central elements of poetry—finds itself all but ignored in the current discourse on lyric forms. The essays collected here by Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkinbreak that critical silence to readdress some of thefundamental connections between poetry and sound—connections that go far beyond traditional metrical studies.
Ranging from medieval Latin lyrics to a cyborg opera, sixteenth-century France to twentieth-century Brazil, romantic ballads to the contemporary avant-garde, the contributors to The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry of Sound explore such subjects as the translatability of lyric sound, the historical and cultural roles of rhyme,the role of sound repetition in novelistic prose, theconnections between “sound poetry” and music, between the visual and the auditory, the role of the body in performance, and the impact of recording technologies on the lyric voice. Along the way, the essaystake on the “ensemble discords” of Maurice Scève’s Délie, Ezra Pound’s use of “Chinese whispers,” the alchemical theology of Hugo Ball’s Dada performances, Jean Cocteau’s modernist radiophonics, and an intercultural account of the poetry reading as a kind of dubbing.
A genuinely comparatist study, The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry of Sound is designed to challenge current preconceptions about what Susan Howe has called “articulations of sound forms in time” as they have transformed the expanded poetic field of the twenty-first century.
Transpoetic Exchange illuminates the poetic interactions between Octavio Paz (1914-1998) and Haroldo de Campos (1929-2003) from three perspectives--comparative, theoretical, and performative. The poem Blanco by Octavio Paz, written when he was ambassador to India in 1966, and Haroldo de Campos’ translation (or what he calls a “transcreation”) of that poem, published as Transblanco in 1986, as well as Campos’ Galáxias, written from 1963 to 1976, are the main axes around which the book is organized.
The volume is divided into three parts. “Essays” unites seven texts by renowned scholars who focus on the relationship between the two authors, their impact and influence, and their cultural resonance by exploring explore the historical background and the different stylistic and cultural influences on the authors, ranging from Latin America and Europe to India and the U.S. The second section, “Remembrances,” collects four experiences of interaction with Haroldo de Campos in the process of transcreating Paz’s poem and working on Transblanco and Galáxias. In the last section, “Poems,” five poets of international standing--Jerome Rothenberg, Antonio Cicero, Keijiro Suga, André Vallias, and Charles Bernstein.
Paz and Campos, one from Mexico and the other from Brazil, were central figures in the literary history of the second half of the 20th century, in Latin America and beyond. Both poets signal the direction of poetry as that of translation, understood as the embodiment of otherness and of a poetic tradition that every new poem brings back as a Babel re-enacted.
This volume is a print corollary to and expansion of an international colloquium and poetic performance held at Stanford University in January 2010 and it offers a discussion of the role of poetry and translation from a global perspective. The collection holds great value for those interested in all aspects of literary translation and it enriches the ongoing debates on language, modernity, translation and the nature of the poetic object.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
What is the place of individual genius in a global world of hyper-information— a world in which, as Walter Benjamin predicted more than seventy years ago, everyone is potentially an author? For poets in such a climate, "originality" begins to take a back seat to what can be done with other people’s words—framing, citing, recycling, and otherwise mediating available words and sentences, and sometimes entire texts. Marjorie Perloff here explores this intriguing development in contemporary poetry: the embrace of "unoriginal" writing. Paradoxically, she argues, such citational and often constraint-based poetry is more accessible and, in a sense, "personal" than was the hermetic poetry of the 1980s and 90s.
Perloff traces this poetics of "unoriginal genius" from its paradigmatic work, Benjamin’s encyclopedic Arcades Project, a book largely made up of citations. She discusses the processes of choice, framing, and reconfiguration in the work of Brazilian Concretism and Oulipo, both movements now understood as precursors of such hybrid citational texts as Charles Bernstein’s opera libretto Shadowtime and Susan Howe’s documentary lyric sequence The Midnight. Perloff also finds that the new syncretism extends to language: for example, to the French-Norwegian Caroline Bergvall writing in English and the Japanese Yoko Tawada, in German. Unoriginal Genius concludes with a discussion of Kenneth Goldsmith’s conceptualist book Traffic—a seemingly "pure’" radio transcript of one holiday weekend’s worth of traffic reports. In these instances and many others, Perloff shows us "poetry by other means" of great ingenuity, wit, and complexity.
Marjorie Perloff, among our foremost critics of twentieth-century poetry, argues that Ludwig Wittgenstein provided writers with a radical new aesthetic, a key to recognizing the inescapable strangeness of ordinary language. Taking seriously Wittgenstein's remark that "philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry," Perloff begins by discussing Wittgenstein the "poet." What we learn is that the poetics of everyday life is anything but banal.
"This book has the lucidity and the intelligence we have come to expect from Marjorie Perloff.—Linda Munk, American Literature
"[Perloff] has brilliantly adapted Wittgenstein's conception of meaning and use to an analysis of contemporary language poetry."—Linda Voris, Boston Review
"Wittgenstein's Ladder offers significant insights into the current state of poetry, literature, and literary study. Perloff emphasizes the vitality of reading and thinking about poetry, and the absolute necessity of pushing against the boundaries that define and limit our worlds."—David Clippinger, Chicago Review
"Majorie Perloff has done more to illuminate our understanding of twentieth century poetic language than perhaps any other critic. . . . Entertaining, witty, and above all highly original."—Willard Bohn, Sub-Stance