Between the Polaroid and the True Self—Perloff & Yankelevich; Boston Review & Los Angeles Review of Books
by ________Posted on July 15th, 2012 at 7:03 pm
First, Marjorie Perloff writes an essay about contemporary and conceptual poetry published in Boston Review (an essay that, Perloff explains, was originally intended for Virginia Quarterly Review)—
If “creative writing” has become as formulaic as I have been suggesting, then perhaps it is time to turn to what Kenneth Goldsmith calls “uncreative writing.” Tongue-in-cheek as that term is, increasingly poets of the digital age have chosen to avoid those slender wrists and wisps of hair, the light that is always “blinding” and the hands that are “fidgety” and “damp,” those “fingers interlocked under my cheekbones” or “my huge breasts oozing mucus,” by turning to a practice adopted in the visual arts and in music as long ago as the 1960s—appropriation. Composition as transcription, citation, “writing-through,” recycling, reframing, grafting, mistranslating, and mashing—such forms of what is now called Conceptualism, on the model of Conceptual art, are now raising hard questions about what role, if any, poetry can play in the new world of instantaneous and excessive information.
Then, Ugly Duckling Press’s Matvei Yankelevich responds to Perloff’s essay in an open letter to Perloff published by Los Angeles Review of Books—
So, I can’t help but ask the question: If one is interested, as you are, in “reinventing the lyric,” why look to Conceptualism? To add to the confusion, your article adduces poems by Peter Gizzi, Charles Bernstein, and John Cage which, while they may contain conceptual elements, are by no means Conceptualist poets. The poems you cite would look like poems to almost any reader; in that sense, they hardly challenge received notions of what makes a poem a poem.
Finally, Perloff responds herself, in an open letter to Yankelevich, also published by Los Angeles Review of Books:
Do I believe that Conceptualism is the only game in town? Not for long. As with any movement — Dada, for example, or the Language movement that preceded Conceptualism and also shades into it — the likelihood is that the moment of Conceptualism, which is now prominent enough to boast two recent large anthologies and many university courses dedicated to it, will soon be over.