03. 03. 2021
Vladan Kuzmanović

Poetry by Other Means
in the New Century

Interview with Majorie Perloff, Feb 2020.

You published Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the
New Century. How would you define “unoriginal genius”?
MPG: The phrase “unoriginal genius” is, of course, ironic. What I
meant was that one could be a “genius” even when all the language in
one’s work was taken from elsewhere—was “unoriginal.” Genius is not
necessarily a matter of inventing a plot or characters or language but of
making the right choices.

What inspired you to turn to avant-garde at the time of “The Futurist
Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant Guerre, and the Language of Rupture,
with a New Preface”?
MGP: The first edition of THE FUTURIST MOMENT was 1986; the
second came in 2003 and much had changed! Most important, it was
after 9-1-1 and the U.S. was transformed forever! No more Utopian
hopes and even the “cool” futurism I talk about in my last chapter is no
more. So I wanted to reflect a little bit on the issues involved.

Concrete poetry is nowadays very popular in Brazil? What about
elsewhere? I suppose it was not always that way?
MGP: Concrete Poetry came into being in smaller or minor cultures—
Brazil, Sweden, Switzerland—rather than in the great capitals like
Paris, London, or New York. For one thing, it was the perfect form
for those who write in lesser-known languages. I can’t read Portu-
guese–or only very slightly—but I can make out the great Brazilian
concrete poems. But Concretism never has caught on in the Anglo-
phone countries; I’m not quite sure why. Here it is considered just fun
and games, not serious enough. In the U.S. poets are expected to “say”
important things.

Is there any relation of laterism to concrete poetry?
MGP: I don’t know what laterism is. Do you mean multi-laterism?
If so, then, yes, the idea of switching languages and an awareness of
globalism would be very important to concrete poets.

You worked a lot on Language poets and Objectivists? In your view,
what were the contribution of Language poets to Avant-garde and
even more Contemporary poetry?
MGP: Language Poetry was very important to me in the 1990s-2000s,
more than a principle than for the individual poets, few of whom were
in fact outstanding poets. It put to rest the notion that the poet begins
with Ideas and then puts those ideas into language. Rather, poetry
begins with language. There are no “thoughts” outside of language as
Charles Bernstein put it. Language poetry had a very important nega-
tive effect, sweeping the room clean of these stale ideas about “emo-
tion” and “lyric sincerity” etc.

The language was something like Dada, concrete, experimental, con-
ceptual at the same time?
MGP: Yes, although Language Poetry as a movement was more intel-
lectual than Dada, less fun-loving and playful. It took itself seriously as
a political movement too – Marxist and materialist. And, no, concep-
tual poetry came a little later and the ideas are different although they
come out of language poetry.

Craig Dworkin and Goldsmith have dedicated Against Expression:
An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (2011), is Unoriginal Genius:
Poetry by Other Means in the New Century your response?
MGP : Yes, we all worked together in a sense. The idea behind
AGAINST EXPRESSION is that one can produce great writing that
is made entirely of other people’s texts. In the art world, this concept
was accepted as early as the 1960s. Or rather, even earlier: Duchamp
is the father of Concrete Poetry. He showed that one could take the
most ordinary of objects and recontextualize or frame it so as to make
a great work of art. In poetry, though, this is more difficult because the
basis is language and so it is rare to find a poem that is entirely written
in the words of someone else. Anyway, UNORIGINAL GENIUS is the
critical counterpart of AGAINST EXPRESSION. Craig Dworkin was
my student but I have learned so much from him and of course from
Kenny Goldsmith.

I have more interest in your contribution to Conceptual poetry. You
organized a conference Conceptual Poetry and Its Others in 2008.
How you got the idea? It was a very important event in his contem-
porary literature. You traced the way forward for avant-geared to
positive reception and contemporary recognition for new conceptual
writers and “well-establish” avant-garde poets?
MGP: The 2008 Conceptual Poetry conference in Tuscon, Arizona
came about when the organizers at their Poetry Center invited me
to do whatever I liked. We called it CONCEPTUALISM AND ITS
OTHERS because I didn’t want only to have conceptualist poets. But
some of the “others” didn’t want to come; they had and continue to
have no use for Conceptualism. But we had a wonderful session with
Christian Bök, Charles Bernstein, Caroline Bergvall, Craig Dworkin,
Kenneth Goldsmith, Tracey Morris, and others. We invited discuss-
ants aside from the main speakers and had Vanessa Place, Brian Reed,
Wystan Curnow, etc. That made it very exciting and contentious. We
tried to understand what Conceptualism was and how it related to ear-
lier poetry and art.

You have collaborated with many conceptualists, who would you
would emphasize?
MGP : The ones just mentioned, and then also French ones like Franc
Lebovici and Jan Baetens.

Your opinion on performance art and conceptual performance.
biased question… how do you see the art of Marina Abramovich?
MGP: Well, performance art is a very big topic – there is so much and
of very varying quality. I like Laurie Anderson very much – especially
her early work.
But on the whole, I think performance art dates rather quickly
and is rather limited. Of course one can reproduce the performance
but the second time, it is rather less interesting than the first, as with
the many performances of Kurt Schwitters’s URSONATE. And I
don’t care much for Marina Abramovich – it’s a one-liner, I wouldn’t
want to see it again.

With Craig you wrote The Sound of Poetry, the Poetry of Sound ex-
ploring the value of sound, Hugo Ball’s Dada performances, or those
of Jean Cocteau. You also worked with Cage. What are your remark-
able thoughts on American avant-garde music?
MGP : John Cage, to me is one one the great artists of the 20th century.
He rethought what sound is, what silence is, what one can do with
simple, everyday materials, and what FORM is. But bear in mind that
Cage did not like improvisation or typical performance art, that he be-
lieved that form was central to any art, and he was amazingly inventive
in understanding his time and seeing how art had to change, that it
couldn’t remain the same.



Претплатите се и дарујте независни часописи Људи говоре, да бисмо трајали заједно


Људи говоре је српски загранични часопис за књижевност и културу који излази у Торонту од 2008.године. Поред књижевности и уметности, бави се свим областима које чине културу српског народа.

У часопису је петнаестак рубрика и свака почиње са по једном репродукцијом слика уметника о коме се пише у том броју. Излази 4 пута годишње на 150 страна, а некада и као двоброј на 300 страна.

Циљ му је да повеже српске писце и читаоце ма где они живели. Његова основна уређивачка начела су: естетско, етичко и духовно јединство.


Мило Ломпар
главни и одговорни уредник
(Београд, Србија)

Радомир Батуран
уредник српске секције и дијаспоре
(Торонто, Канада)

Владимир Димитријевић
оперативни уредник за матичне земље
(Чачак, Србија)

Никол Марковић
уредник енглеске секције и секретар Уредништва
(Торонто, Канада)

Уредници рубрика

Александар Петровић
Београд, Србија

Небојша Радић
Кембриџ, Енглеска

Жељко Продановић
Окланд, Нови Зеланд

Џонатан Лок Харт
Торонто, Канада

Жељко Родић
Оквил, Канада

Милорад Преловић
Торонто, Канада

Никола Глигоревић
Торонто, Канада


Душица Ивановић

Сања Крстоношић

Александра Крстовић

Графички дизајн

Антоније Батуран

Технички уредник

Радмило Вишњевац


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