KES: Can you explain why you think non-conceptual poetry is dead and how conceptual writing breathes new life into that space—or is it an entirely new space?

KG: The poet David Antin sums it up:
“. . . i had always had mixed feelings
about being considered a poet if robert lowell is a
poet i dont want to be a poet if robert frost was a
poet i dont want to be a poet if socrates was a poet
ill consider it”
We’re uncreative. You might ask, what’s wrong with creativity? “I mean, we can always use more creativity.” “The world needs to become a more creative place.” “If only individuals could express themselves creatively, they’d be freer, happier.” “I’m a strong believer in the therapeutic value of creative pursuits.” “To be creative, relax and let your mind go to work, otherwise the result is either a copy of something you did before or reads like an army manual.” “I don’t follow any system. All the laws you can lay down are only so many props to be cast aside when the hour of creation arrives.” “An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.”

When our notions of what is considered creative became this hackneyed, this scripted, this sentimental, this debased, this romanticized… this uncreative, it’s time to run in the opposite direction. Do we really need another “creative” poem about the way the sunlight is hitting your writing table? No. Or another “creative” work of fiction that tracks the magnificent rise and the even more spectacular fall? Absolutely not.

KES: Notes on Conceptualism emphasizes that words, like pictures, are objects and that “a word is worth a thousand pictures.” Yet I have a different experience with conceptual poetry than I do with other works of art. What expectations, if any, should I have when approaching conceptual writing?

KG: Conceptual writing treats words as material objects, not simply carriers of meaning. For us, words are both material and carriers of meaning; it’s language and you can get rid of meaning no matter how hard you try. This is made manifest by the digital environment where, since the dawn of media, we’ve had more on our plates than we could ever consume, but something has radically changed: never before has language had so much materiality—fluidity, plasticity, malleability—begging to be actively managed by the writer. Before digital language, words were almost always found imprisoned on a page. How different today when digitized language can be poured into any conceivable container: text typed into a Microsoft Word document can be parsed into a database, visually morphed in Photoshop, animated in Flash, pumped into online text-mangling engines, spammed to thousands of email addresses and imported into a sound editing program and spit out as music; the possibilities are endless.

- bill 10-09-2009 8:57 pm

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