Bernar Venet and the History of Conceptual Poetry

weatherIn writing about Language to Cover a Page: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci (2006), edited by Craig Dworkin, Marjorie Perloff remarks on how much Acconci’s writing practice foreshadowed the so-called “uncreative writing” of Kenneth Goldsmith and other contemporary conceptualists:

How uncanny [. . .] that thirty-five years before Goldsmith produced his book The Weather (Los Angeles: Make Now Press, 2005), a transcription of a year’s worth (December 21, 2002-December 20, 2003) of hourly weather bulletins on WINS (1010), New York’s all-news radio station, Acconci should have produced a numbered text called “Act 3, Scene 4,” that begins like this:

1. The sun rises today, Thursday, December 26, 1968.
2. At 7:18 A.M., sets at 4:34 P.M., and will rise
3. tomorrow at 7:18 A.M. The moon sets today at 11:49
4. rises at 12:10 P.M. tomorrow and will set tomorrow
5. at 12:38 A.M. Warmer weather and clear to cloudy skies
6. will cover most of the eastern portion of the nation
7. today while snow is expected to fall on the western
8. lake region, the Northern Plains States, and from
9. the upper Mississippi Valley to the plateau region.

And it goes on in this vein for another ten pages…

Perloff goes on to say that Language to Cover a Page “provides the missing link between the first forays into a non-representational, non-expressivist poetics and its current incarnations.”

Yet Acconci wasn’t the only conceptual writer in the 1960s who appropriated weather reports. Bernar Venet, who is most well-known and celebrated as a sculptor, has done similar works.  Continue reading


Travis Macdonald’s Conceptual Triple Threat

Travis Macdonald (of Fact-Simile Editions) has impressively dropped three new chapbooks this spring.  All of them are great examples of what Kenneth Goldsmith might call “uncreative writing,” and two of them, BAR/koans (Erg Arts, 2011) and Sight and Sigh (Beard of Bees Press, 2011), are available as free PDFs.  Hoop Cores (The Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2011) is available for £5.00.  Check them out!


Hoop Cores continues Macdonald’s play with prophecy (his latest full-length book N7ostradamus  subjects the seer’s quatrains to N+7, the famous Oulipian procedure) as he anagrammatically “translates” extremely conventional horoscopes by astrologer Jacqueline Bigar into lexically lurid and ludicrous texts (“Hoop Cores” is, of course, an anagram of “Horoscope”).  The chapbook itself (pictured above) is much wider than it is long (at 8″  x 3 3/4″) and opens up, quite neatly, like a check book.   Here is Gemini:

Yo-ho–Amputate your non-equality catcalls. Shhh! Recant your prudishly obscured pig beauty. Good. Eunuchise your psychopathic sainthood’s spluttering heat rash erections. OK. Now eloquently avenge that sensitive lechery. Continue reading