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Shaw, Concrete and Abstract Poetry (abstract)

  • Mary Lewis Shaw. "Concrete and Abstract Poetry: The World as Text and the Text as World." Visible Language 43 (1988ñ89): 29ñ43. 
SHAW EXAMINES the relations and distinctions between concrete and abstract poetry, placing concrete poetry in the context of the French anti- representational literary tradition (31), and suggesting that the "first concrete poem," Mallarmé's "Un Coup de Des," was a convergence of aesthetic principles suggested by the Symbolists desire for "correspondences between the arts" (31). One of the constant aims of the concrete poets has been to "detach their works from the analytical structure that language has traditionally imposed on thought" (35),  as well as to emphasize primarily the material existence of the signifier (37). The text of the concrete poets reveals the "word as an active presence in the universe" (40). Shaw suggests how the increasing importance of visual elements has contributed to the development of a "heterogeneous type of poem"(37).
     Although in comparing it to abstract poetry, Shaw claims that concrete poetry has had a tendency to self- destruct and to impose negativity (37), the two poetic forms share a desire to "eradicate the difference between the world and the text" (29). (Julia Bleakney.)

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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

URL: <http://umn.edu/home/mh/txtimjb4.html>

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Created 24 December 1997