Poetry News

Craig Saper Bequests History of Concrete Poetry to Coldfront

By Harriet Staff

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There's never been a better time to brush up on your concrete poetry know-how than right now, as Coldfront is featuring quite prominently a history of concrete poetry in America by Craig Saper. Check it out! More:

In the 1960s, the American variant of Concrete poetry was influenced by manifestos and poems from Europeans and Brazilians as well as the vibrant international art scene in New York City, the anti-war and pro-civil rights protests throughout the States, and popular culture’s fascination with systems and technology. These cultural influences made the United State’s version of Concrete poetry unique and particularly popular. An exemplar of these tendencies appeared on the dust jacket of the definitive anthology, Concrete Poetry: A World View (1970).[i] The editor-poet, Mary Ellen Solt (1920-2007), composed her poem, “Moonshot Sonnet,” from reformatted diagrammatic-codes initially used by NASA-engineers to plan and execute the moon landing. The engineers placed the diagrammatic-codes over photographs of the lunar surface, and Solt abstracted the diagrams without any photographic reference. Using the codes, she transformed the result into a sonnet, with the codes appearing in “exactly fourteen “lines” with five “accents,”” a Petrarchan or Italianate sonnet.[ii] Her poem is a distinctively American sonnet. It is not just an iconic concrete poem, but also a poetic emblem of a national identity.

The literary poetics reduce language to an eloquent semiotic code system and universal visual language. Although the poet-editor, Solt, describes her influences as arriving from the Brazilians and Europeans, the actual poem is also unmistakably alluding to geometric minimalism, Pop art, and ready-mades. The designers of Solt’s anthology, at Indiana University Press, insisted that the poem adorn the back cover of the dust jacket in part to highlight the editor’s contribution to the International Concrete poetry movement, but also as an entreaty to the American reader to appreciate the importance of a “world view” in the age of peaceful lunar exploration. The poem concretely suggests that, although the International Concrete poetry movement was launched from Brazil and Europe, it would reach its largest audience when it landed in the United States.[iii] [...]

Continue at Coldfront.

Originally Published: October 28th, 2015