Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary – The Joy of Cooking: Airport Novel Musical Poem Painting Theory Film Photo Hallucination Landscape

Stephen Burt writes:

Other poets and critics with avant-garde pedigrees explore the territory of conceptual poetry on a smaller scale, with nimbler instruments. Tan Lin is included in Goldsmith and Dworkin’s anthology, but his best work isn’t: Seven Controlled Vocabularies is a manifesto for present-day quasi-semi-avant-garde verbal art that is playful or sarcastic where Perloff is serious; generalised and fragmentary where she is specific and clear. Much more subtly than Goldsmith, though with less public effect, Lin makes an art out of statements and gestures that we may think he cannot possibly believe. ‘Poetry = wallpaper,’ Lin suggests. ‘Novel = design object … Dew-champ wanted to create works of art that were non-retinal. It would be nice to create works of literature that didn’t have to be read but could be looked at, like placemats.’ ‘The best books are the ones that read like paintings, and the best paintings are the ones that read like quotation marks,’ reads the start of a page that ends with a reproduction of the back of a Post-It note; there are also barcodes and short bits of Chinese. ‘Today no poem should be written to be read,’ Lin recommends, ‘and the best form of poetry would make all our feelings disappear the moment we were having them.’ If he is wrong, he invites us to show how and why.

(LRB 10 May 2012)

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