Apr 28, 2004

I'm thrilled to be a part of Runaway Spoon Press's anthology of pwoermds Ampersand Sqaured. I'm a big fan of pwoermds, and this is a fantastic anthology. The size itself is satisfying, approximately the size of a book of postcards, with the pwoermds in a pleasing bold font. Reminds me also of flashcards from kindergarten (learning English) or high school (learning French); I suppose this constitutes "learning English" as well.

I'm a big fan of pwoermds. I like that they are elemental, reducing the dynamics of the word to one of the smallest possible units, they draw our attention to the true pawns, the true building blocks of this act of poetry: the words themselves. These works become our occidental ideographs, working sometimes visually, sometimes upon the context of the mark in relation to other marks, or echoing other marks; they are to our language what those mythic "Chinese" characters described (inaccurately) by Fenollosa are. The dynamics of the works function in a similar fashion:

In this Chinese shows its advantage. Its etymology is constantly visible. It retains the creative impulse and process, visible and at work. After thousands of years the lines of metaphoric advance are still shown, and in many cases actually retained in the meaning. Thus a word, instead of growing gradually poorer and poorer as with us, becomes richer and still more rich from age to age, almost consciously luminous. Its uses in national philosophy and history, in biography and in poetry, throw about it a nimbus of meanings. These centre about the graphic symbol. The memory can hold them and use them. The very soil of Chinese life seems entangled in the roots of its speech. The manifold illustrations which crowd its annals of personal experience, the lines of tendency which converge upon a tragic climax, moral character as the very core of the principle--all these are flashed at once on the mind as reinforcing values with an accumulation of meaning which a phonetic language can hardly hope to attain. Their ideographs are like blood-stained battle flags to an old campaigner. With us, the poet is the only one for whom the accumulated treasures of the race-words are real and active. Poetic language is always vibrant with fold on fold of overtones, and with natural affinities, but in Chinese the visibility of the metaphor tends to raise this quality to its intensest power. -From The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry.

In the pwoermds, we can see that evolution of English words, as they copulate with each other and with graphical, concrete elements to form mutated signs.

An informative essay by Geof Huth traces the history of the pwoermd and comments on the works in the anthology. He speaks about the demonization of pwoermds, and minimalist art in general by those who fail to see that any work of art is an organism or a compound, made up of a system of cells or molecules. The minimalist is more of a chemist than a sculptor, engaging the materials at their most base level. Indeed, in the case of the pwoermds, the minimalist is an alchemist, fusing sometimes unrelated, sometimes related units into new forms, creating chimeras, mules and tangelos.

I have deliberately not mentioned any of the pwoermds here in the hopes that the reader will go to the anthology itself to see them. For locals, I'll have a few copies at the Indie Bookfair at the Yart Sale in Somerville this weekend, otherwise, you can contact Geof Huth by way of his blog in order to order a copy...

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