The Experiments in Contemporary Poetry
December 3-5, 2015
Marjorie Perloff, University of Southern California:
The Conceptual Turn: Wittgenstein and the New Writing
This lecture traces the genealogy of conceptualist poetry rather differently from existing versions, using as its base Wittgenstein and Duchamp and clearing up some current preconceptions. I then turn to what I take to be a great example of Conceptualist poetry: the work of Sophie Calle, in particular her recent book (also an installation) TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF (PRENEZ SOIN DE VOUS) in which the narrator, having received an email from her lover telling her it’s over, asked 107 women from all walks of life to comment on the letter which ends with the words “Take care of yourself.” This superb work—a mix of verbal and visual image, like Calle’s earlier THE ADDRESS BOOK and SUITE VENETIENNE, has been neglected by poets because it is usually classified as “conceptual art.” But since in fact it is mostly written text, this dichotomy will not hold. So I try here to erase some established boundaries.
Peter Dayan, University of Edinburgh:
How can a poem become contemporary?
I approach this question, not by analysing a 21st-century corpus (I am not qualified to do so), but by thinking about what has happened to the concepts of poetry and of the contemporary over the past hundred years.
The decisive legacy of the 20th century was the principle that no one has the right to say (at least, in rationally accessible terms) what the limits of poetry are, so we cannot give an academic definition of the poem. For academics, therefore, poetry now is properly defined not by its internal features, but by observing what people call poetry. It used to be defined by its qualities; now, we have to appear to think it is defined in the first place by the word itself, and how the word is used. And that has been the case for a few decades now.
But as the borderlines of poetry have become less accessible to definition, so have the borderlines of the poem itself. The period from 1850 to 1960 saw, perhaps, the apogee of the poem as concrete physical object. The age of intermediality, intertextuality, and the internet has increasingly challenged that object-status of the poem, and opened it up to experimentation, not only by poet-authors, but by receivers, who are no longer merely readers of an iconic text, but may transform the object itself. Of course, this has led to new forms of poetry, which work with new freedoms. But it has also transformed the ways in which the poetry of an earlier age reaches us. I will take one or two examples of this transformation, as it has affected some canonical 19th-century poems. I will aim to suggest that the effect is not merely to give us new ways of reading old poems, but to create contemporary poems out of old ones; and, furthermore, that perhaps it is precisely this process of creating the contemporary from the old, with the paradoxical relationship to tradition and to authorial authority that emerges from this process, which allows contemporary poetry to sustain itself.
My aim will be to propose some hypotheses, from a deliberately presbyopic point of view, and see what people who are actually immersed in contemporary poetry make of them.
Bent Sørensen, Aalborg University:
Jim Shaw's The Hidden World as a Book of Poetry
Jim Shaw’s 500-page volume The Hidden World (2014) is a strange book that in Jacques Derrida’s parlance ”participates” in numerous different genres. Its visual presentation is an obvious pun on The Holy Bible, whereas its contents at a cursory glance appear to be a compendium of low culture visual documents, ’found’ in pulp publications, in thrift stores, on billboards, and on the Internet. These documents are mostly word-image hybrids, and their original functions may have been as commercials or advertisements, religious propaganda, doomsday prophecies, or other forms of naïve “didactic art”, as Shaw himself terms them. However, when ’repurposed’ in this artist’s book they clearly become something entirely different. The question is: What have they become, exactly?
Shaw is usually regarded as a conceptual artist, and his book can indeed be seen as a catalogue of his extensive collection of pulp art (often cited as his source of inspiration for his ‘real’ art), but by utilizing the book medium for its presentation, and further visually imitating the format of holy scripture, he has also opened up for his work to be read as one would a collection of sacred texts, say, a Bible – or even a book of poetry.
Drawing on genre theory, as well as recent work by, among others, Martin Glaz Serup and Thomas Hvid Kromann, I propose to read The Hidden World against its own grain, as it were, as a collection of conceptual poetry, participating in the discourses of belief and testimony.
Unni Langås, Agder University:
0-1. Konkret poesi og digital litteratur
Perspektiver på Monika Aasprongs Soldatmarkedet
Soldatmarkedet av Monica Aasprong er et eksperimentelt verk som ble påbegynt i 2003, og som foreligger i mange versjoner i ulike medier. Verket står i tradisjonen fra den konkrete poesien og dens skrivemaskingrafikk, slik den er brukt av for eksempel Eugen Gomringer i Timebok og Inger Christensen i Det. Mens skrivemaskintypografien kan virke rigid og formell, skaper digitale tekstbehandlingssystemer mer fleksibilitet og interaktivitet, og det er blant annet disse kvalitetene Aasprong utforsker i sitt multimedieverk. Verket baserer seg på ordet «soldatmarkedet», som refererer til en plass i Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt, og er en lek med bokstaver og ord generert av dette. I de mange kombinasjonene og variantene, som utnytter både materielle, akustiske og visuelle virkemidler, skapes konnotasjoner og semantiske forbindelser som – i tillegg til skriften og teknologien selv – fremhever temaer som stedet, arkivet og traumet. I foredraget vil jeg se nærmere på de utvidede betydningsmulighetene i og med overgangen fra konkret poesi til internettpoesi og dessuten belyse hvordan de nevnte temaene får en særskilt fortolkning på grunn av verkets form.
Mats Jansson, University of Gothenburg:
Ekfras som poetiskt modus
Ekfrasen – den litterära beskrivningen och tolkningen av ett bildkonstverk – kan hänföras till det mångförgrenade forskningsfält som numer benämns intermedialitet. I den dikt som beskriver en målning, ett fotografi eller en skulptur sammanförs olika konstarter, medier eller teckensystem. Denna intermediala omständighet innebär att en sådan bildbeskrivning i poesin i själva verket rymmer grundläggande estetiska komplikationer.
I sina försök att (re)presentera bildkonsten kan dikten använda sig av en mängd olika strategier som sträcker sig över hela skalan från kamp och rivalitet till samförstånd och dialog. Oavsett var tyngdpunkten läggs i det enskilda fallet blir dikten alltid en form av tolkning av bildkonstverket. Val, bortval, betoningar och undertryckanden visavi bildelementen förkommer alltid och gör förställningen om renodlad beskrivning till en chimär. Det som är utanför måste tas in, översättas, assimileras och därför också ändras. Den diktare som skriver om någon annans konst är nämligen alltid också sysselsatt med att skapa sin egen.
Att skriva om ett konstverk skiljer sig från att skriva om ett naturligt objekt. Bildkonstverket är redan i sig självt ett konstnärligt yttrande om tillvaron som dikten såsom konstnärlig gestaltning förhåller sig till. Själva den ekfrastiska situationen involverar alltid åtminstone tre deltagare: bildkonstnären – poeten – läsaren. Såväl poet som läsare kan men måste inte också ha varit betraktare. Exakt vad är objektet när vi läser en dikt om en målning? Vad ser texten i bilden? Med vilka språkliga och retoriska medel förmedlas detta seende? Vad innebär det för läsarens tillägnelse av i första hand dikten men också av bildkonstverket? Det förefaller alltså som om vi har att räkna med att flera olika perceptionsakter är inblandade i en dikt om en bild. Frågan om vad texten finner i bildkonstverket och hur detta förmedlas till läsaren kan förstås brytas ner i en mängd delfrågor, till exempel: döljer eller avslöjar dikten bildrummets ikonografi?
Ekfrasen förhåller sig till ett annat representationsmodus och ger uttryck för en strävan att inkorporera ’detta andra’ i sig. Det är en strävan att upplösa gränsen och utplåna skillnaden mellan dem som samtidigt erinrar om det omöjliga att i realiteten lyckas med detta. Eller är det inte så att denna strävan måste misslyckas? Det är i alla händelser dubbelheten i denna ansats som gör ekfrasen till ett särskilt intressant litterärt framställningssätt. Det handlar alltid om något som är både frånvarande och närvarande. Bilder och ord, bilder som ord. Bilden föregår ordet och utlöser språket. Betraktarens/författarens tillägnelse av bilden föder språk och säger därför också något om det poetiska språkets gestaltande kraft. Men det omvända torde också gälla. I det som är en imaginär eller föreställd ekfras, till exempel beskrivningen av Achilles sköld i Iliaden eller av den grekiska urnan i Keats ode, är det förstås språket som framskapar bildkonstverket.
Med exempel från svensk modernistisk och senmodernistisk poesi från den senare hälften av 1900-talet och ett stycke in på 2000-talet kommer föreläsningen att beröra frågeställningar som de ovanstående. Avsikten är också att peka på teoretiska implikationer som är inneboende i ekfrasen som poetiskt framställningssätt.
Peter Middleton, University of Southampton:
Fields and Codes
Open field is one of the most widely used descriptive terms for contemporary free verse poetry which eschews prosodic and stanzaic form, typically flowing unpredictably across page and screen. The field has been a highly productive concept for recognising the entanglement of technique and technology, form and meaning, cognition and performance, in late modernist poetics. Field is a concept that recognises that poems are media, while its fertility as a concept depends on its tacit conjunction of science and aesthetics. In this paper I trace the infrastructure of this concept by discussing one of its sources, Charles Olson¹s much-reprinted poetics essay, Projective Verse², which makes extensive analogies between poetic composition and the physics of fields. The idea of the open field poem relies not only on an analogy between the electromagnetic field in which every point has its own directed intensity, it also subtly alludes to related analogical uses by social scientists and earlier literary theorists. The field is in one sense what Olson calls a construct or what the social scientists call a conceptual scheme. Gains in conceiving the poem as a field can be highlighted by contrasting the idea of the poem as a field with the earlier idea of the poem as a system the concept used by poet Muriel Rukeyser, whose ideas about poetics helped inspire Olson. By considering the genealogy of the concept of poetic field it is also possible to discern its limitations as a model of the contemporary poem, when compared for instance to the concept of code another dominant poetic paradigm. Overall, the paper sketches a key theme in my new book Physics Envy, which published this November 2015 by Chicago University Press.
Jenna Coughlin, UC Berkeley:
Language Diversity and Poetics in the Norwegian Writer’s Climate Campaign §112
Language diversity has been and remains an important aspect of Norwegian cultural norms and values, in the form of the right to speak one’s dialect and to chose the form of written Norwegian in which one engages in public discourse. An effort to similarly encode appreciation for and protection of biological diversity has been made within the Norwegian constitution. The latter is emphasized explicitly in the programme of Forfatternes Klimaaksjon §112, established in 2013 by the Norwegian Author’s Union. As their website states: “NWCC have chosen Article 112 of Norway’s Constitution as the guiding principle and main objective for our activities … Norway remains one of the very few countries in the world that has adopted such potent legal provisions for their young and yet unborn citizens: «Every person has a right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained.»” (https://forfatternesklimaaksjon.wordpress.com) Media diversity is also emphasized in the campaign’s programme—the website features prose, poetry, visual art, and journalism—as well as age diversity (a writing contest for youth has also been conducted by the campaign). However, language diversity is not explicitly mentioned, though it is implicitly promoted through the inclusion of writers from various Scandinavian countries, as well as scientific and journalistic discourse in English. I wish to present on the language diversity represented by the poetry included on the campaign’s website so far, in order to explore the possibility for a relationship between appreciation for and protection of biodiversity and inclusive attitudes toward language diversity in the Writerly community. This type of investigation, I believe, can help us to answer questions such as, How are writers to negotiate the global nature of the climate crisis with the regional aspects of their writing, including language? and, How might diversity contribute to the creative energy of a collaborative writer’s project
and, ultimately, its effectiveness as activism?
Maria Jørgensen, University of Copenhagen:
Experimenting with the past
From T.S. Eliot’s "remarkable exposition of bogus scholarship", as he later described his annotations to the The Waste Land (1922), to Caroline Bergvall’s rewriting of the Anglo-Saxon poem “The Seafarer” in her recent work Drift (2014), philology has been a silent partner in experimental poetry. The aim of this paper is to investigate the reuse of the scholarly methods of philology in avant-garde poetry as a tradition of literary experimentation. In which way can the philologically informed remixing of the literature of the past be considered as a literary experiment? What happens in the encounter between the texts of the past and the poetics of the present? And why have literary experimentalists been looking towards the past in order to create something new? The high modernists, such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, already undertook this experiment but recently we have witnessed a resurgence of poets, recreating this experimental set-up, such as Anne Carson, Susan Howe, and Caroline Bergvall. Turning respectively towards the literature of antiquity, American literary history, and medieval English literature, these writers, I would claim, are exposing the literature of the past to a new type of philological experimentation with a different outcome than the high modernists and with very different poetic agendas. My paper will analyze the difference between the historic experiments of the high modernists and those of the contemporary writers.
Hadle Oftedal Andersen, University of Helsinki:
Mediating between Modernism and Neoavantgarde: Contemporary Finlandswedish Poetry
In this paper, I will present a handfull of finlandswedish poets who have had their debut within the last twenty years. Finlandswedish poetry in this period is not as dominated by neoavantgardist tecniques as other Nordic literatures in this period, especially the Danish and the Swedish. But I have found a quite unique and fascinating mediating between conventional modernism and neoavantgarde within these texts: They have a particular way of double functioning, which open them up towards a simultanious exsistense of the two forms: They might be read both as subject-oriented modernism with a "deeper" meaning AND as exploratory, surface- and material-oriented neoavantgarde, but these two Readings are resiprocally excluding.The main focus will be on Peter Mickwitz (remix of Edith Södergran), Cia Rinne (silly wordplays and graphics), Henrika Ringbom (reworking of ready-mades from Nya Pressen, ca. 1970), Heidi von Wright(reflections on road signs). Peter Stein Larsen's division between "centrallyrik" and "interaktionslyrik" will have an obvious elevance to this investigation.
Ole Karlsen, Hedmark University:
«and I see that this is an altar». On religious language and concepts in Cecilie Løveid’s poetry 2001 – 2013
A conspicuous trait in Cecile Løveid’s later poetry, particularly in New Rituals (Nye ritualer, 2008), is the mixture of religious and profane language. Of particular note are instances where churchly phenomena and ”things” are cut off from their original place of belonging and put into new surroundings and (linguistic) contexts (like the altar in the title that is observed in the passenger lounge in a modern airport), thus being reshaped in their (counter-)posed position alongside worldly phenomena and ”things”. In my lecture I shall describe this poetic technique and its function, drawing on modern word/image-theory.
Jakob Schweppenhäuser, Aarhus University:
mesbol gete pert runlet. The Scandinavian Sound Poetry of Jesper Elving
It has been said that sound poetry (understood as “verse without words”) is the only kind of poetry that needs no translation. In this perspective, sound poetry is the international language of literature: everyone (or no one) understands it. At the same time, sound poems often reveal traces of real languages, e.g. the poet's native language. This is also the case for contemporary Danish sound poet Jesper Elving, whose alternative language seems to be strikingly Scandinavian. The paper will examine this specific contemporary practice, drawing lines to the avant-garde tradition of sound poetry. Furthermore, Elving has participated in several artistic collaborations; one of them – a collaboration with a musician – will also be presented in the paper.
Claus K. Madsen, Åbo Akademi University:
The Scandinavian long poem – between history and remediation
The borders of poetry are brought into question when the lyric poem is extended into a series of sequences. Such “long poems” not only challenge the scope of poetry, in their narrative or architectural conception of a whole and in their social pretense, but extends the conception of poetic text and authorial position alike. Still, the discussion of the Scandinavian long poem has been fairly poor, even if critics and poets alike use the term regularly. Two recent events point at an archetypal long poem. The death of Rifbjerg brought out Camouflage (1961) as a long poem, and Caspar Erics Nike (2015) was discussed at length as a long poem. But none of them are labelled long poem, and both accounts fail to explain what this entails. Perhaps the leftaligned double-spaced verses that are so alike might not need an explanation. But what then of the equally poetic sequences in Frostensons Flodtid (2011), which do not abide the same typographical format. Gösta Ågrens Centralsång (2013) mentions a long poem and two critics pointed this out. Yet, the poem in question has a sonet’s structure. So Ågrens case poses the question of the modern sonet. Are Pablo Llambias’ sonets Monte lema (2011) and other recent sonets to be considered long poems? Rimbereid’s Jimmen (2011) and Solaris korrigert (2004) are referred to as long poetry, and are in their voices and poetic form representative of what the long poem quintessentially has to offer. But the conceptual poetry in Malinowski’s Den store danske drømmebog (2010) challenge the same poetic qualities. It seems both historical genres and remediation poses questions regarding the currently non-specific genre category. I would like to address this need and draw up four lines which form meaningful distinctions regarding the Scandinavian long poem.
Tobias Skiveren, Aarhus University:
A difference that makes a difference: Towards a post-constructivist reading of the body in contemporary Danish poetry
In recent years, a new focus on gender and body has surfaced in contemporary Danish poetry. While many may have noticed this emerging trend, only a few have acknowledged the ways in which it challenges the prevalent approaches that we as literary critics conventionally reach for when analyzing and interpreting literature concerned with these very issues. The constructivist and queer perspectives so often employed in this context simply falls short when applied to poetry exhibiting a conspicuous insistence on corporal experiences, bodily materiality, and gender-specific phenomena. Consequently, the development of an alternative theoretical framework is required. Drawing on post-constructivist thoughts from theoretical fields such as new materialism, embodiment, and phenomenology (Barad 1998, Braidotti 1994, Grosz 1994, Young 2006, Moi 2001, Lykke 2010), this paper examines the possibilities and challenges for such a new optic. It investigates what happens to our readings, if we conceptualize categories like “male” and “female”, not primarily as social constructs, but also as an indispensable corporeal foundation that shape our activities and experiences in the world. Instead of studying the various ways in which gender is constructed in and by literary discourses, this paper investigates if and how literature can facilitate a glance from within a body that would otherwise be completely out of reach. Through brief readings of poetry by Olga Ravn and Katinka My Jones, I ultimately seek to demonstrate how such post-constructivist considerations can facilitate a sensibility allowing more apt perspectives on contemporary poetry
Giuliano D’Amico, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim:
Esoteric experiments in Håkan Sandell’s poetry
The Scanian poet Håkan Sandell (1962) is a peculiar voice in Swedish and Scandinavian contemporary literature. Since the early 1990s, Sandell has cultivated a form of neoclassical poetry, which he has termed retrogardism, in opposition to the established modernism and growing postmodernism. In this paper, I will look at how he has experimented with esotericism in his production of the last decade.
Sandell has developed an esoteric framework for his poetry which ranges from magic to shamanism and Gnosticism. In his poetical practice, for instance by using ancient metrical forms or shamanistic drums during readings, Sandell gives his poetry a performative aspect that reminds closely of Aleister Crowley’s experiments in using poetry for practical use in occult rituals. In my paper, I will make a close reading of some of Sandell’s poems and, more briefly, I will draw upon Antoine Faivre’s famous definition of esotericism as a “form of thought” in search of an ancient wisdom long lost in time. Although his paradigm is no longer accepted in contemporary studies of Western esotericism, I will argue that it still applies for Sandell’s literary and esoteric experiments and search for forms of expression which have not survived the arrival of modernism in Scandinavia.
Martin Gregersen, Aalborg University:
Is it possible to produce texts ecologically?
Is it possible to produce texts ecologically? That is the question which this paper seeks to answer. The starting point for this discussion is a diverse range of new materialist and ecocritical theories that all explore the movements, exchanges and interconnections taking place across the human and non-human materiality. The simple but far-reaching point is that nothing is something in itself. On the contrary, everything is connected to everything else. The main exponents are Timothy Morton’s ”mesh”, Jane Bennett’s ”vibrant matter” and Stacy Alaimo’s ”trans-corporeality”.
When it comes to content-oriented readings of literature it seems obvious that the mentioned conceptions are relevant, but what seems more difficult to grasp may be what they can bring to the study of the formal and production aspects of literature. Nevertheless, in this paper I propose two things: 1) the fundamental ecological notion, namely that everything is connected, is applicable not only in regards to literary representations, but also in relation to specific production strategies. 2) There are production strategies which are more ecologically oriented than others. Amongst these are the explicitly recycling/rewriting of other texts because it marks a break with the autonomous work of literature (e.g.: Sigurd Buch Kristensen: De danskes øer (2014)), as well as the collective or self-generated writing processes which implies a devaluation or exceeding of the self-reliant, autonomous writer (e.g.: Mette Moestrup et al.: Frit flet (2014) and Christoffer and Troels Ugilt: Individ i fællesskab (2014)).
With these considerations this paper will hopefully contribute to a productive discussion and expansion of the now widespread ecocritical reading practice.
Lisa Schmidt, University of Gothenburg:
Performative paragrammatism in Erasure poetry
Since the 1960s erasure poetry has emerged as a new genre in the border between art and poetry. One of the most influential artists in this genre is Tom Phillips whose A Humument (1970) is an ongoing project continually resulting in new variations of the same source text. Today, writing through erasure is a whidespread phenomenon. In contrast to a traditional palimpsest, erasure poetry is written through its underlying source, not on top of it, and can thus be described as recycling not only the book, but also the text written in it. The new text is embedded in the old. These double layered works calls for a double way of reading, a reading that consider the dialogical relation between the textual layers and that include both text and visual aspects of the poem. A dialogical relation does in fact often appear in the visual traces from the erasing tool, like whiteout marks. In several erasure works, elements of the theme from the source text is transformed into a performative act in the graphic layer of the new poem. My aim is to shed light on this intertextual relationship in Ronald Johnson’s Radi os (1977), erased from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Yedda Morrison’s Darkness (2011), erased from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The term Performative paragrammatism will be used to describe the dialogical relation visible in the graphic dimension of the erased poem. Julia Kristeva has used the term paragram in order to describe the intertextual play literary texts inevitable are involved in. Applicated on erasure poetry, the term simultaneously can be understood in accordance with Kristeva’s use of it and in a more literal way, as text unfolded from other text. In Johnson’s and Morrison’s works part of this paragrammatic quality is performed in the visual layer of the poems. Visual aspects, like erasure marks, does in other words call for a reader.
Birgitte Stougaard Pedersen, Aarhus University:
Poetry slam – atmospheres and aesthetic sensibility
The paper wishes to investigate Poetry slam through the concepts of atmosphere and aesthetic experience. Taking a postphenomenological position, the paper will study a specific poetry slam event as a intersensorial situation. Accoding to Don Ihde “postphenomenology is a modified phenomenology hybrid” (2009, 23), modified in the sense that Ihde, by integrating a material perspective, represents a pragmatic way of avoiding the problems of understanding phenomenology as a subjectivist philosophy. The fundamental premise the analysis of the poetry slam event is a phenomenological understanding of embodiment and human active bodily perception as a dynamic understanding of a life world. The paper will adress the acts, words, delivering style and voice of the slam poet, the acts of the audience as well as the atmosphere (Böhme) of the specific space emerging from this situation.
Claudia Benthien, University of Hamburg:
‘Poetic Images‘: References to Lyric in Experimental Video Art
This presentation is part of a current research project on The Literariness of New Art. It investigates media art from the perspective of literary studies. The guiding concept is ‘literariness’, as developed by Russian Formalism; the term denotes the poetic ‘surplus’ of meaning, emanating from non-pragmatic use of language. One of the aesthetic strategies that the project aims at analyzing is the adaptation of literary genres. At the Aalborg conference, I would like to discuss experimental single-channel video artworks that reflect and reference lyric poetry and its specific dense language use – e.g. iteration, rhythm and rhyme – among them presumably Bill Seaman’s The Water Catalogue (1984), Eder Santos’s Mentiras & Humilhações (1988) and Seoungho Cho’s Identical Time (1997). These works have been classified as ‘video poems’ or ‘lyrical fusions’ of images, music and text and explore strategies of translating the aesthetics of poetry into audio-visual art. I will argue that they largely refer to a notion of poetry as the ‘subjective’ genre, expressing the sentiments, mood and perceptions of a single speaker, who is closely associated, if not equated, with the author or artist. However, this is a historically particular view, valid only for the period from Romanticism to the Avant-garde – a period that undertook a persistent „lyricization of poetry” (Virginia Jackson) that even contemporary media artists (and critics) participate in.
Carmen Vioreanu, Bucharest University:
Claus Ankersen: experiments on reading the city, between stage poetry, street poetry and page poetry
Claus Ankersen (b. 1967) has been in the last 12 years one of the most active Danish poets. He has worked with spokenword and live literature, poetry, fiction, installation, video- and soundscapes, painting and various cross-over forms for all kinds of audiences in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Ukraine, Romania, Germany, Poland, Holland, Serbia, Croatia, Turkey, Armenia, India, England and the USA. In many of his poems, he attempts to establish a connection with the city – whether it's about Istanbul, Berlin, Warsaw, New York or Copenhagen – through the word, both written and spoken. The present paper explores two of Claus Ankersen's experiments in creating and re-creating the city of Copenhagen: the installation Altid/Always (2013 and 2015) and the project Souvenirs from Heaven (2013/2014, together with the photograph Pernille Ringsing). Starting from the question whether Altid is a transposition from page to stage, I am analyzing the three ways of addressing the public – the installation Altid/Always itself, the installation and the performance of the author and the performance itself, focusing on space, time, material elements and staging the text in the book “Træet og springvandet” (2010). The research of the project Souvenirs from Heaven focuses on the work process in the festival Copenhell 2013 and the result, the book containing 80 pages of black and white portraits and text – an amalgam of prose, lyrics, gonzo poetry and “øjebliksbilleder”.
Gabriel H. Decuble, Bucharest University:
Open curved questions
An open curved question is not a rhetorical one. Its beginning and end points are always different, and it cannot be answered by Yes or No. One never comes back where the questioning began. Being confronted in the recent past with Inger Christensen’s and Oskar Pastior’s poems – Alfabet, and Das Denken des Zufalls respectively – which are based as is well-known on mathematical formulas I had to acknowledge a rather strange formal constraint I as a translator into Romanian had to deal with. The algebraic formula each of the poems brilliantly illustrated had to be preserved in translation more than any other poetic element. I asked myself: Would I by faithfully translating/ preserving algebraic structures fall on a universal language beyond the language itself? Would I find the path towards a millennial semantic peace? Now, music is as universal as mathematics. Some composers even boast about having musically rendered but mere geometrical or algebraic structures preexisting in nature. Visual artifacts exhibit in their turn at least geometrical subtlety. What if linguistic works of art too embody in a very subtle manner mathematical facts? What if a genuine and universally comprehensible intermedial dialogue can only take place when mathematical constraints are satisfied? Even if such constraints are unlikely or rather discrete and difficult to ascertain – what if integrating complex works of art in several media at a time can be reasonably accomplished only by leaning on mathematical certainties? A Riemannian music or a Gaussian poem should deliver the answer.
Rikke Andersen Kraglund, Aarhus University:
Christina Hagen: Boyfrind
This presentation considers the book Boyfrind (2014) by Christina Hagen, one of the most extraordinary and original voices in contemporary Danish literature. I focus on Hagen’s various strategies for using recycling and remix, and I want to show how the book gives contours of cultural conceptualizations of both femininity and masculinity. The audience at several poetry readings has delivered the voices and stories to the book Boyfrind, but the materials have been transformed and translated by Hagen into English. The author copy found language and revises it, but she is not improving it to make it more beautiful. The language that operates in Boyfrind is imperfect, full of misspellings and errors and written in a girlish handwritten font and style. The text pieces are placed between blurred and close up photos – for instance of prostitutes and genitals. The work has a well-designed rudeness and provocation and is concerned with frames that influence the reception of texts. Hagen works like an archivist, an anthropologist or historian, and I want to show how she exposes some of the ideas and hierarchies that still dictate how one is given a voice in our society. The statements of the books are constructed as autobiographical, but for more than one person. It is more like an overt expression of group membership or a voice of our contemporary time and culture. In this presentation I would like to show how Hagen is discovering a kind of solidarity with the anonymous other and how she dramatizes the dehumanization involved in prostitution.
Per Bäckström, Karlstad University:
The Inoperativeness of Art. Öyvind Fahlström’s Concrete Poetry
In 1953 the Swedish concrete poet and internationally renowned avant-garde artist Öyvind Fahlström (1928–76) wrote the worlds probably first manifesto for concrete poetry – “HÄTILA RAGULPR PÅ FÅTSKLIABEN”, inspired by the historical avant-garde and the neo-avant-garde that at the same time was on its rise, but also by Pierre Schaeffer’s musique concrète. The poetical techniques proposed in his manifesto laid the ground for Fahlström’s later production in different arts, from concrete poetry to radio plays. His first radio composition Fåglar i Sverige (1963, Birds in Sweden) triggered a whole new genre, the international movement of text-sound-poetry (a.k.a. sound-poetry, poésie sonore). The second radio play (or blind music, as he called it) Den helige Torsten Nilsson (1966, The holy Torsten Nilsson), became a small success despite its strange story, and was aired in five different episodes by the Swedish broadcasting company. In his use of new technology and different broadcasting media Fahlström was a forerunner for media art, and the intermedial intricacy of his art can be fully understood and discussed only after the birth of Internet in our own information and media age.
In this paper I will focus Fahlström’s concrete poetry from the 1950s, and discuss how he lays down the rules for creating poetry in his manifesto, and then tests these rules out in the concrete poetry he wrote between 1952 and 1955. The poems were not printed until 1966, as Bord – dikter 1952–55, when his poetical œuvre had become the inspiration for the whole concrete movement in Sweden in the Sixties. From his poetics, put forward in the manifesto, I will continue to discuss the processual and performative aspects of (his) concrete poetry. I will exemplify my discussion with Öyvind Fahlström’s concrete poem “Det stora och det lilla” (The large and the small), which became the musical score for a performed text-sound composition by the group Tre tenorer 1998. In my discussion I will (tentatively) argue that the printed book should be seen as one actualization only of the potentialities of concrete poetry, in line with Giorgio Agamben’s use of the notions of “potentiality”, “actuality” and “the inoperativeness” of art. Fahlström’s ‘withdrawal’ from the cultural scene might be seen as a political move, since it discloses the true potentiality of his poems – it makes them inoperative in a refusal to prioritize one and only one actualization, since this would exhaust the true potentiality of the poems. I will also examine this move in contemporary conceptual poetics, in a final (short) discussion of Kenneth Goldsmith’s uncreative aesthetics, since he himself claims that his books are not meant to be read.
Nicklas Freisleben Lund, University of Copenhagen:
Some illness of the garden – poetic crisis in Cyrus Console’s The Odicy
A few years back Danish poet Lars Skinnebach proclaimed that “art that doesn’t deal with the climate crisis, isn’t worth dealing with at all’”. Skinnebach’s statement indicates what we might call the prominent ‘crisis consciousness’ of much contemporary poetry – writers’ increasing awareness of and preoccupation with the various social, political and not least ecological crises of our epoch.
On the one hand, American poet Cyrus Console’s critically acclaimed second book The Odicy (2011) is symptomatic of this tendency and its end-time rhetoric, as it portrays a decaying world impoverished by capitalist production – a world weeping “ill-colored water” and soaking in agrichemicals and artificially flavored beverages.
At the same time, however, The Odicy clearly stands out due to a distinctive ‘backward-looking’ aesthetic approach to these motifs and themes. Not only is The Odicy (cf. the pun of the title) saturated by mythical and biblical allusions, but its poems are also first and foremost characterized by a formal return to the iambic pentameter. In other words, The Odicy constitutes an intersection where a subject matter and a language straight out the 21st century meet the canonical meter of classic English poetry.
The aim of the presentation is to explore and consider this peculiar aesthetic strategy, which – I would argue – should not and cannot be reduced to an ironic gesture or a mere formal experiment. Rather, The Odicy must be understood as Console’s highly original attempt two raise two interconnected and fundamental questions: How can poetry adequately respond to the disastrous scope of the current crises? And does traditional lyrical beauty hold any place in a poetry confronting the catastrophe of the present?
Hans Kristian Rustad, Hedmark University:
Poetic experiments with photographs, then and now
The photographic medium entered the poetic scene in Scandinavia in the 1960s and 1970s as part of an experimental strategy where the poets challenged established concepts of literary genre and the idea of the pure arts. This kind of experimentations can be found in the early poetry of for instance Per Højholt, Lars Norén, Paal-Helge Haugen and Einar Økland. Likewise, but perhaps with a different purpose, we find the use of photographs in contemporary poetry by poets such as Lotta Lotass, Amalie Smith, Janus Kodal and Tomas Espedal.
While the poetic experiments with photographs in the 1960s and 1970s can be regarded as neo-avant-garde, contemporary poetry’s use of photographs either seems to be prolonging the neo-avant-garde movement or represents what Jean-Marie Gleize has termed “postpoésie” (2011; 2015). According to Gleize “postpoésie” involves poetry written from a position outside of poetry, as if poetry as a literary art form has ceased to exist.
In this paper I will discuss the relationship between the use of photographs in the neo-avant-garde poetry and in contemporary poetry. By pointing out connections and disconnections between the poetic experiences in these two periods, I will try to identify and describe different poetic attitude towards photography as well as art forms, medium, and genre more in general.
Anne Karhio, University of Bergen / National University of Ireland, Galway:
“This is not a mainstream aesthetic act”: Experimental Poetry and New Media in Ireland
Commenting on the resistance of Irish poetic culture to the experimental or the avant-garde is by now almost commonplace. Critics including Sarah Bennett, Alex Davis, John Goodby, Marcella Edwards and Peter O’Toole, as well as number of others, have outlined reasons for such a resistance – or, in some cases, the unsuitability of the term “experimental” to Irish cultural production in the first place. For Goodby and Edwards, alternative voices have been marginalized by “the myth of Irish poetry”, the idea that “the only true and proper theme of Irish poets is their own Irishness and/or Ireland itself”. Sarah Bennett has argued that the late 20th century attempts to track “a tradition separate from the more visible Irish poetic tradition” is in itself a sign of the absence of avant-garde culture.
In my title I quote the Cork-based poet Graham Allen’s long digital poem Holes, one of the relatively few examples of born-digital Irish poetry. This presentation will focus on Allen’s poem and other examples of contemporary Irish poetry in the digital domain from the perspective of the culture of Irish experimental poetry – or lack thereof. How do Irish publishers, poets and artists engage with the possibilities offered by new media, and how do critics respond to such engagements? What is the relationship between digital media, tradition and avant-garde in Ireland? And what, in the context of multimodal and transnational digital literature is understood as poetry, or as Irish poetry?
Miikka Laihinen, University of Turku:
A New Material Operation of Language in Henriikka Tavi's poem "4"
Something happened in the field of Finnish poetry at the turn of the last decade. An outburst of new ways of writing a poem challenged the ever more prevailing dogma ofmodernist poetics. The reception of this experimental-labeled "New Voice" or "Counter-Canon" has been at least as diverse as the range of new poetries itself. The aim of my paper is thus to sketch out an analytical approach, that could take evenhandedly into account the multiple means of poetic expression in the 21st century (Finnish) literature.
My point of view emphasizes the role of the reader; the suggested approach is a new materialist one, and hence ground on the notion of (a new) materiality of language. I view the experiments of contemporary Finnish poetry as 1) the becoming-questionable of the primality of the signification process and 2) the material and enunciative heterogeneity occurring in (exprimental) poetic texts. Instead of asking what a poem means, I ask – in a new materialist manner – how does a poem work in terms of it's material operation; how does the language of
contemporary poetry function and hence affect? Drawing from the conceptual heritage of late French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, I consider poetry as a reading-event, a relation between a text and a reader; a sensation-producing reading-machine. I hence carry out a(n experimental) close reading of an experimental poem, from the first book (Esim. Esa, 2007) of the Finnish poet Henriikka Tavi. Esim. Esa was notified with a major Finnish literary award at the time of it's release, and the reception of the book was ground largely around the notion of it's experimental features. In my reading I point out the ways in which a poem titled "4" disturbs the process of signification, and how this disturbance thus turns the reader's attention into the material organization and functioning of the poem's language.
Stefan Kjerkegaard, Aarhus University:
Lyric Poetry in Motion Pictures
In the movie Interstellar (Nolan 2014) Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gently into that good night” is used and read aloud very compulsively by actor Michael Caine. In fact Interstellar can be read as a kind of narrativization of the poem, for instance night and darkness as actual black holes in the movie, and the musicality of the poem visualized as a rocket launch. The list of lyric poems used in movies, however, are long and historical: From the use of Walt Whitman’s verses in the classic silent movie Intolerance (Griffith 1916) to the documentary Night Mail (Watt and Wright 1936) to which W.H. Auden wrote a poem with the same title, and to Marlon Brando whispering “The Hollow Men” in Apocalypse Now (Coppola 1979) and Morgan Freeman reading “Invictus” by W. E. Henley in Invictus (Eastwood 2009).
In my paper I want to examine the role of lyric poetry in movies through some of the mentioned examples. One idea could be that lyric poems are used to bridge mimetic with anti-mimetic elements (like feelings and certain moods). Hopefully the study, in a more overall perspective, can contribute to what kind of role lyric poems play in relation to narrative in general and movies specifically, not least how they position themselves in an intermedial perspective.
Mikkel Krause Frantzen, University of Copenhagen:
Danish Design: Apocalypse and melancholia
What might a contemporary poetry look like in the age of Man, in the geological epoch of the Anthropocene? That is the central question guiding my presentation, which takes Theis Ørntoft’s Digte 2014 as an object of analysis and an occasion for reflection. In this groundbreaking book of poetry a certain combination of apocalypse and melancholia is present(ed), somehow reminiscent of another important Danish work from the immediate past, namely Lars von Trier’s film Melancholia (2011). Of course, the national conjunction is in itself deeply irrelevant, but the two artists nevertheless share the ambition of pushing things to extremes in so far as they both take up an uncompromising attitude towards living and creating in end times – an attitude engendering, in Ørntoft’s case a disillusioned if not downright depressive state of mind on the one hand, and, on the other, a strange science fictional, speculative or even accelerationist hope.