What It Means to Be Avant-Garde

What It Means to Be Avant-Garde

by David Antin

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Asked to participate in a poetry festival, Antin ( Talking at the Boundaries ) tells the caller: ``i / dont read anymore i talk and that whatever i happened to say / that was my poetry.'' This is his third collection of transcribed oral pieces, and the method has worn thin. To be sure, he attempts to gear his autobiographical monologue to each audience. But the focus of these pieces, which average at 30 pages, quickly strays to anything and everything: his Manhattan apartment, his job translating scientific texts, the rise and cost of living. Pompous and egotistical, he ends up hurling words in the general direction of his listeners. Spread randomly on the printed page, his words unfortunately capture all the drone of performance: prosaic, unpunctuated, refusing capitalization. One assumes, from Antin's prefatory remarks to each poem, that this book collects only his most successful monologues. Frankly, it's hard to tell. (June)
Library Journal
This string of seven wonderfully rambling ``talk performances'' by poet and monologist Antin is marred only by the tiresome, silly ``avant-garde'' convention of using no capital letters and very little punctuation. In spite of that, these Proustian works of recall are riveting proof of the incantatory power of words. From straightforward digressions on his aged mother and his in-laws to a complicated, slightly bizarre piece called ``the structuralist'' (a lengthy profile of a red-headed, muscular dwarf who's a linguist, translator, and painter), each section is sparked by Antin's recollection of being invited to ``read'' at a conference or a seminar. In ``the fringe,'' he recalls the Sixties when, with John Ashbery and Ed Sanders, they were ``three-penny poets reading against the war.'' In the title story, which provides a key to Antin's work, he objects to the artist Christo's being identified as avant-garde ``because the chamber of commerce is perfectly cheerful about'' his projects. Highly recommended for all collections of modern literature and art.-- Ron Antonucci, Hudson Lib . & Historical Soc ., Ohio

Product Details

New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
Paperbook Series
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

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