Book review: Contemporary Poetics

contemporary poetics

Contemporary Poetics.
Edited by Louis Armand.
Northwestern University Press.
Avant Garde and Modernism Studies
Rainer Rumold and Marjorie Perloff, series editors
2007. 396 p.

This challenging and engaging book does not claim to be ‘about’ poetics or about a systematic theory or doctrine of poetry. Rather, it offers a collection of critical essays that aim to broadly delineate a possible ‘poetics of the contemporary.’
Editor Louis Armand is himself a poet, and directs the InterCultural Studies program at the Philosophy Faculty of Charles University, Prague. Armand’s books include The Garden, Malice in Underland, Strange Attractors, and various critical works.

A ‘poetics of the contemporary,’ Arman writes, both “responds to and seeks to account for the contemporary (and consequently technological) emplacement of language and the material basis of this emplacement as an ‘object’ of poetic investigation, practice, and technique—from the historical advent of concrete poetry to the current technopoetics of cyberspace.”

The international and interdisciplinary set of contributors includes Alan Sondheim, Allen Fisher, Augusto De Campos, Bob Perelman, Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Darren Tofts, Donald F. Theall, Gregory L. Ulmer, J. Hillis Miller, Keston Sutherland, Kevin Nolan, Louis Armand, Marjorie Perloff, Mckenzie Wark, Michel Delville and Andrew Norris, Ricardo L. Nirenberg, Simon Critchley, D.J. Huppatz, and Steve Mccaffery.

The sense of the term ‘contemporary poetics’ as it is used in this volume, Armand writes, “rests neither in the delineation of a specific period or epoch nor in a ‘present’ conceived in terms of it, but rather of a ‘condition’ of writing—of the poetic enterprise—which is both historical and attuned to the radical co-implication of poetics and the ‘present time of writing.’”

‘Contemporary poetics’ is not thereby constituted by any particular style or aesthetic but by a particular regard for those conditions under which language happens, Armand continues. “For this reason, the present volume focuses both on poetics as critique and in terms of the historical record … while primarily concerning itself with addressing the notion of ‘a poetics of the contemporary’ in which so-called theory is not divorced from praxis but rather hybrid forms provide contours of emergence of a ‘time of writing’ – in other words, of a ‘contemporary poetics.’”

“Computerized hypertext and the increasingly mobile, wireless interface allow us to envisage in concrete terms the structural contours of a fourth linguistic dimension, between the quasi-infinite and the infinitesimal, as a network of instantaneity between all signifying ‘moments,’ Armand writes. “The awareness of such possibilities leads the concerns of poetics to broaden far beyond the task of elaborating poetic technique to the much more considerable task of accounting for the generative technics of language per se.”

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