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Vito Acconci
LANGUAGE TO COVER A PAGE: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci
ed. Craig Dworkin
(MIT Press, 2006)
.Vito Acconci
LANGUAGE TO COVER A PAGE: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci
ed. Craig Dworkin
(MIT Press, 2006)
.Vito Acconci
Vito Acconci
LANGUAGE TO COVER A PAGE: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci
ed. Craig Dworkin
(MIT Press, 2006)
.
LANGUAGE TO COVER A PAGE: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci
ed. Craig Dworkin
(MIT Press, 2006)
.Vito Acconci
LANGUAGE TO COVER A PAGE: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci
ed. Craig Dworkin
(MIT Press, 2006)
.Vito Acconci

This book is not going to change literary history, despite a few significant poetic achievements and a fine editing job and introduction by Dworkin.

Acconci’s “early writings” are mostly from the late 60s. The material here is published, mostly, for the first time. His work with process and linguistic data organization extends some of the structural ideas of the previous generation, most obviously Mac Low and Cage, and has an affinity with his immediate contemporaries, Aram Saroyan, Clark Coolidge, Susan Howe, and Bernadette Mayer, without ever having the preternatural élan of Saroyan or the sustaining poetic brilliance of Coolidge, Mayer (with whom Acconci edited the important art/poetry crossover magazine 0-9), or Howe (who switched from visual art to poetry just as Acconci was going in the other direction). The closest poetic match for this work is David Antin’s process-oriented works collected in his Selected Poems: 1963-1973 and also Hannah Weiner’s early works.

The Acconci collection might also be compared to Carl Andre's Cuts: Texts 1959-2004, edited by James Meyer, published in the same MIT series in 2005. Andre is the more interesting poet, but his collection is compromised by the poetry phobia, or perhaps ignorance, on display in the introduction. Indeed, both books display a prissy caution against using the “p” word in their titles, lest the target art-world audience be put off (an approach adopted with some success by Lawrence Weiner).

While much of Acconci’s poetry on display here veers to the pat or inert, like the discarded plans they in some ways are, I liked best a few of the pieces in the final two sections of the collection. These pieces bear a close relation to the more realized contemporary conceptual poetry Dworkin champions. “Act 3, Scene 4” divides what we would now call a weather feed into 350 numbered lines (yes, something like Kenneth Goldsmith’s The Weather, avant la lettre). Or take, for example, the witty parody of a poetry of place, “REMOVAL, MOVE (LINE OF EVIDENCE): the grid location of streets, alphabetized, Hagstrom’s maps of the boroughs: 3. Manhattan.” The piece begins “J12 G13 G12 B11” and goes on for five large-format pages. Man, oh, man: that’s poetry!

link    |  08-13-08


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