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Post-Language poetry

Posted by Word Camel on July 10, 2004

Here is an excerpt from an article I found recently which raises some interesting questions. How can we read poetry which consists of strings of words that while they have dictionary meanings, are strung along randomly with other words so that their meanings no longer matter? What are we supposed to make of the noise that is left?

I thought this would appeal to the poetry fans but I'm also wondering if there is some effect beyond experimental poetry. And anyway, "post-language" is an interesting term in itself.

From I, Reader: the Rise of Robo-Poetics
How Contemporary American Poets Are Denaturing the Poem,
By JOAN HOULIHAN published in The Boston Comment

1. Denial

This stage is filled with disbelief and denial. You can't believe someone seriously wrote these words and presented them as something worthy of your attention.

2. Anger/Resentment

Anger at the situation, the baffling words in front of you, the poet and his or her poem, perhaps others-- reviewers, editors or book publishers--is common in this stage. You are angry at them all for causing the situation and for causing you pain.

3. Bargaining

You try to negotiate with yourself to change the experience of reading this poem. You see the poem as an isolated instance, something idiosyncratic and not likely to recur. You make deals with yourself to "work harder" and "read more" poems of this type, to "give them a chance" when you're not so tired. You might bargain with God, "I'll be a more disciplined and patient reader if you'll just give me a hint as to what this one means."

4. Depression

You realize the situation isn't going to change. The poem happened, it was published, you will never understand it or why anyone sees value in it, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Acknowledgement of the situation often brings depression. This could be a quiet, withdrawn time.

5. Acceptance

Though you haven't forgotten what happened, you are able to begin to move forward and approach another poem, try to begin again.