Friday, February 04, 2011


Preparing to teach a unit on Concrete and Sound Poetry for my avant-garde class this week (one of my favourite sections: how can you lose with Finlay, Phillips, Antin, and the Four Horsemen?) I was thrilled to come across the reference online that Eugen Gomringer had just celebrated his 86th birthday on Sunday and was still creating art.

Gomringer's "From Line to Constellation" manifesto is the source for one of the best definitions of first wave Concrete Poetry, as well as containing the coolest German word that I try to work into any conversation on visual poetry: Denkgegenstanddenkspiel.

"So the new poem is simple and can be perceived visually as a whole as well as in its parts. It becomes an object to be both seen and used: an object containing thought but made concrete through play-activity (denkgegenstanddenkspiel), its concern is with brevity and conciseness. It is memorable and imprints itself upon the mind as a picture. Its objective element of play is useful to modern [humanity], whom the poet helps through [his/ her] special gift for this kind of play-activity."

Read the whole manifesto here. Incidentally, Gomringer is also credited with one of most controversial statements about Concrete Poetry: "Concrete poetry has nothing to do with comic strips" (cited in Mary Ellen Solt's Concrete Poetry: A World View, 10)

And I love this playful photo of Gomringer in front of his most famous piece:

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