Concrete Poetry, Action Poetry, Chocolate Poetry

Concrete poetry plays on the tension between the meaning of a poem and how it takes shape on the page. Emphasizing the materiality of text and its spatial configuration, Eugen Gomringer considered it the task of concrete poetry to generate a “concrete presence.” Although he may not have expected such an association, this emphasis on what might be called the “event” of the poem may explain why many concrete poets would go on in the 1960s and after to be involved in performance art. A fascination with presence, embodiment, and materiality binds together all the books in this exhibition.

The visual, perceptual action invited by Gomringer’s poem “ping pong,” Gerhard Rühm’s bewegung, and Hansjörg Mayer’s typoaktionen intersects with Claus Bremer’s contention, articulated in the poem presented here, that “The activity of the reader allows the text to happen.” Even more corporeal and visceral, Robert Filliou’s “action poem,” called “Yes” parodies the work of the poet in an anatomical analysis of his body and its functions. This proximity between, so to speak, the consumption and excretion of the text is nowhere more mischievously present than in Dieter Roth’s chocolate smeared volume of Poetrie or Emmett Williams’ performance-poem “the last french-fried potato,” the duration of which is equal to the number of french-fries performers consume

Gallery Installation Photograph

Staff photograph

The case installation for the section Concrete Poetry, Action Poetry, Chocolate Poetry.

Ainmal nur das Alphabet gebrauchen [For once use just the Alphabet]
Franz Mon (1926-), German
Stuttgart: Edition Hansjörg Mayer, 1967
Rare Book Collection

Called a textlabyrinth, the poem shown here exemplifies Mon’s idea that the font and size of a text can productively influence and alienate the process of reading —even to the point of unreadability. Have a look at the complete book digitized as a part of the slide show in the back of the gallery. Founder of the Typos Verlag in 1963, Mon was also an early publisher of concrete poetry and many Fluxus texts, including Hansjörg Mayer’s typoaktionen in this case, as well as Thomas Bayrle and Bernhard Jäger’s Artistisches ABC and Wolf Vostell’s journal Dé-coll/age also on view in this exhibition.

bewegung (14.3.1957) [motion (14.3.1957)]
Gerhard Rühm (1930-), Austria
Vienna, Aich bei Bleiburg, 1964

Rare Book Collection

This loose-leaf book was published as an insert to the art and literature journal Eröffnungen: Magazin für Literatur & bildende Kunst, n. 12.

Anlaesse: kommentierte Poesie 1949 bis 1969 [Provocations: Commented Poetry 1949 through 1969]
Claus Bremer (1924-), German
Berlin: Luchterhand, 1970
Regenstein Library, General Collections