if robert lowell is a poet i dont want to be a poet
April 14, 2009 10:11 PM   Subscribe

"Not until I put them there." David Antin worked in a wide range of innovative modes until landing in the early 1970s on what he calls the talk poem. Antin speaks extemporaneously and then transcribes his talks using only space as punctuation. The implications of positioning these works as poetry are, of course, part of the point.
posted by roll truck roll (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
There's really no best place to get started with Antin's work. There's a lot to download and love on that PennSound page. I might recommend "War," as a good introduction both to Antin's speaking style and to his aesthetic assumptions.

This excellent book compiles most of his works published before he started doing the talk poems. My favorite talk book is Tuning.

Oh, and while we're here, Charles Bernstein has done dozens of those "portrait" videos. Many of them are very good, camerawork notwithstanding.

Also: this is the post that I was promising to write here, but I don't really remember to whom I was promising it.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:13 PM on April 14, 2009

Thank you! I had never come across David Antin before, that I remember. His work is so up my alley it's barely even funny. I wrote a novel using spacing instead of punctuation (mostly) and it's great to see others doing that. Also, I do improvised poetry, though part of my point is not recording them.
posted by Kattullus at 10:46 PM on April 14, 2009

I don't buy it, sorry. Part of what makes spoken word powerful is that it is spoken: there is a ton of contextual and non-verbal information that makes the text richer and makes the sentences into sense. Why throw away anything that helps you convey that when you map it down to written form. For example - the difference between a semicolon and a colon is more than just a different length of pause: why not allow that to be conveyed?
posted by freebird at 12:23 AM on April 15, 2009

Transcribes his talks using only space as punctuation...

Surely this is one of the long-lost fathers of the internets.

What's his position on their, its and loose?
posted by rokusan at 12:29 AM on April 15, 2009

I've always been partial to "What it mean to be avant garde." Nice post. Thanks.
posted by OmieWise at 4:23 AM on April 15, 2009

Why doesn't he just pour salt directly in my eyes? It'd take less time.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:31 AM on April 15, 2009

Excellent stuff, thank you for posting.
posted by otio at 6:03 AM on April 15, 2009

David Antin is a long-time favorite. Thanks for giving me an excuse to pull a book or two off the shelf this evening.
posted by aught at 7:18 AM on April 15, 2009

david antin was one of my teachers in college. he is a good teacher. he talks just he writes. which is good, and kinda cool. that bernstein poet-guy... his camera gimmick is annoying. but great to see all those writers, speaking. delightful to find a clip of jerome rothenberg in there.
posted by lapolla at 7:20 AM on April 15, 2009

he talks just like he writes, sorry.
posted by lapolla at 7:21 AM on April 15, 2009

For example - the difference between a semicolon and a colon is more than just a different length of pause: why not allow that to be conveyed?

Two possible answers for this question:

1) Because when you hear somebody speaking, and especially if you listen to Antin speaking, the exact nature and purpose of a given pause in their speech often dangles, uncertain, until after the pause is over. He's speaking as he thinks, so it can be unclear what the pause means, or does, until the next phrase or clause begins, either continuing the previous thought or starting a new one. These moments of uncertainty are markers, and what they mark is (in part) that Antin isn't exactly using his work to convey information (like a textbook or a news article would) but rather as a tool to think with. If punctuation marks were written in, the thinkingness of it would be misconveyed and destroyed.

2) The spaces-as-punctuation give the whole text a unique and unmistakable visual rhythm and identity. Nobody else's work looks or reads like Antin's.
posted by sleevener at 8:28 AM on April 15, 2009

this is really great and sleevener is right on.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:31 AM on April 15, 2009

I don't buy it, sorry.

The lack of punctuation might seem like typical weirdo pomo avant-garde fuckaroundery, but in this case, nobody's trying to fool you. Antin is the most down-to-earth, common-sense writer and art critic that I know of.
posted by sleevener at 8:33 AM on April 15, 2009

sleevener is right. The lowercase-ness of his books is actually kind of misleadingly arty, compared to the content which is so funny and human. I've actually heard him compare himself to Garrison Keillor, a comparison that most other avant-garde poets would take as a pretty big insult. And even though he's definitely part of the cool club when it comes to innovative poets, he's also been known to speak at senior citizens' centers and college radio shows.

He's also produced a fair amount of proper critical works, with punctuation and footnotes and everything. They're always interesting when you come across them. I tried to find an example online, but alas. Last time I saw him read, he said that those would be coming out in a book, but I haven't heard anything of it since.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:10 AM on April 15, 2009

Thanks, roll truck roll. He's an interesting guy and I'd forgotten about him.
posted by tangerine at 12:46 PM on April 16, 2009

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