It has been variously labelled ‘Language Poetry’, ‘Language Writing’, ‘L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing’ (after the magazine that ran from 1978 to 1981), and ‘language-centred writing’. It has been placed according to its geographical positions, on East or West coasts; its venues in small magazines, independent presses and performance spaces, and its descent from historical precursors, be they the Objectivists, the composers-by-field of the Black Mountain School, the Russian Constructivists or American modernism à la William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein. Indeed, one of the few statements that can be made about it with little qualification is that ‘it’ has both fostered and endured a crisis in representation more or less since it first became visible in the 1970s. In Poetry & Language Writing David Arnold grasps the nettle of Language poetry, reassessing its relationship with surrealism and providing a scholarly, intelligent way of understanding the movement. Poets discussed include Charles Bernstein, Susan Howe, Michael Palmer and Barrett Watten.
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