Conceptual Poetry

March 10, 2010 at 11:07 am (Digital Lit)

“On the conceptual side, it’s the machine that drives the poem’s construction that matters. The conceptual writer assumes that the mere trace of any language in a work—be it morphemes, words, or sentences—will carry enough semantic and emotional weight on its own without any further subjective meddling from the poet, known as


non-interventionalist tactic.” -Kenneth Goldsmith

I love the idea that any mere trace of language in a work will carry a semantic and emotional weight. Maybe because I’m not a poet or a fiction writer, so I don’t feel the drive for my writing to be creative or necessarily break new ground. However, this idea that any trace of language will carry through and somehow draw attention and weight to itself has a lot to do with points that I have made earlier about the inevitability of the human drive to search for patterns. I’m a strong believer that humans will always try to create patterns, even when none exist, and that there can be beauty and interest, even in the patterns of coincidence. For this reason, one of my favority pieces of conceptual art, and perhaps conceptual poetry, is Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs.”

As charming as I find the actual piece, it is the title which has caused me to smile. The piece itself operates as  a demonstration of Saussurian semiotics, but the title to me is poetry, and it lets me see the weight, and think about the objects and the text here.

One of my favorite things about this piece is that its appeal is not universal. I have taught this several times in intro art history classes, usually to students that despise it. Like a lot of digital poetry, this piece takes time and thought and effort to appreciate, it is something that grows on you. I’m not sure how this relates to digital poetry, or to anything we read this week, but I think its interesting and connected even if I don’t quite know how.


1 Comment

  1. Michele Battiste said,

    the drive to seek out patterns is embedded in our biology. It might even be genetic. I forget. You should listen to the RadioLab program on stochasticity here:

    Scroll down episodes until you get to stochasticity. It is why some people are addicted to gambling.

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