"Avoiding obfuscating terminology, Bruns makes a compelling case for the proposition that 'anything, under certain conditions, may be made to count as a poem.'"
"Delightful . . . Wonderful . . . The Material of Poetry is one of the better books I have read on experimental poetry, one that makes reading the difficult poems of our era seem like vital and liberating work."
"The ways in which Bruns draws attention to . . . areas that so richly deserve deeper ethical and philosophical investigation is interesting and exciting."
Poetry's sense and meaning can hide in the spaces in which it is written and read, says Bruns, and so he urges us to become anthropologists, to go afield in poetry's social, historical, and cultural settings. From that perspective, Bruns draws on works by such varied poets as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Steve McCaffery, and Francis Ponge to argue for three seemingly competing points. First, poetry is made of language but is not a use of it. That is, poetry is made of words but not of what we use words to produce: concepts, narratives, expressions of feeling, and so on. Second, as the nine sound poems on the CD included with the book demonstrate, poetry is not necessarily made of words but is rooted in, and in fact already fully formed by, sounds the human body can produce. Finally, poetry belongs to the world alongside ordinary things; it cannot be confined to some aesthetic, neutral, or disengaged dimension of human culture.
Poetry without frontiers, unmoored from expectations, and sometimes even written in imaginary languages: Bruns shows us why, for the sake of all poetry, we should embrace its anarchic, vitalizing ways.
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