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Noise That Stays Noise


Cole Swensen

Publication Year: 2011

Praise for Cole Swensen: "One of the most assured voices in contemporary poetry." ---Library Journal "Engaging and delightful." ---Publishers Weekly A volume in the Poets on Poetry series, which collects critical works by contemporary poets, gathering together the articles, interviews, and book reviews by which they have articulated the poetics of a new generation. Ezra Pound famously said that literature is "news that stays news," but recent experiments in poetry and the sciences allow us to enlarge the statement to bring information theory and biology to bear on the issue---in particular, how the information theory–based model of self-organization from noise offers a way to look at language as an art material as well as a mode of communication. This concept directs these essays on poetry by contemporary poet Cole Swensen. Noise That Stays Noise covers a variety of subjects relevant to contemporary poetry and will give the general reader a broad notion of the issues that inform discourse around poetry today. Space---the conceptual geometry of poetry and its concrete mise-en-page---is an underlying theme of this collection, sometimes approached directly through the work of other twentieth-century poets, sometimes more obliquely through considerations of the role of the visual arts in contemporary poetry. This question of space and the shapes it includes and acquires offers a different way to look at some familiar writers, such as Mallarmé and Olson, and a way to introduce several more recent writers who may not yet be known to the general public.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Poets on Poetry

Noise That Stays Noise: Generative Abymes

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Noise That Stays Noise

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pp. 3-11

Noise—a subjective category if there ever was one—is something most of us try to avoid, but in the stricter definition of info mation science, it’s an essential, perhaps even distinguishing, element of an artistic text. The experience of confusion or of nonunderstanding that for many people frequently accompanies the first reading of a poem is...

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Bones: Mallarmé’s Dice Game

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pp. 12-15

It’s an accepted tenet of Modernism that Mallarmé instigated a new use of the space of the page, which began in his new awareness of the page, an awareness that appreciated its physicality, and thus its status as a visual object. This awareness reflected change in the state of poetry in the late nineteenth-century Western world. By then, poetry was irrevocably...

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Olson and the Projective

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pp. 16-20

For much of Olson’s career, his overarching concern was what he perceived to be the bankruptcy of Western civilization, a bankruptcy rooted in the Greco-Roman tradition of discourse, which he felt made language into a shield against actual experience. And experience, participation in the actual, was his goal. From there stemmed his emphasis on immanence...

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Against the Limits of Language: Geometry in the Work of Anne-Marie Albiach and Susan Howe

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pp. 21-31

Wittgenstein does not say what this something is, and similarly, the many writers whose work today tries to stretch the boundaries of the sayable through the manipulation of various elements do not necessarily state, or even care, what they’re pushing toward; what they care about is the possibility that there is something beyond language...

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Seeing Reading: Susan Howe’s Moving Margins

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pp. 32-40

“Why read?”—I heard this question put forth the other night by someone who is both a poet and a literature professor. In the context of the discussion at hand, it meant, “Why are we continuing to base education on reading? Is there any real advantage to reading as opposed to getting information from DVDs, videos, films, or other media?” In short, why do we...

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The Infinite Mountain: Nicolas Pesqu

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pp. 41-44

Nicolas Pesquès has been writing a single poem for thirty years. In a way, it’s a poem about endlessness, about inexhaustibility, the inexhaustibility of the earth and of affection. In clipped, enigmatic phrases, he explores the intricate and innumerable connections between man and world. Through the seven books it comprises to date, he has constructed an internal landscape that reflects the sensuousness and spirit of the mountain...

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Peter Gizzi’s City: The Political Quotidian

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pp. 45-52

Since Whitman and Baudelaire, the everyday has increasingly been the territory of modern poetry. It amounts to an assertion that art can live a daily life, and that art has a role in our daily lives. The fusion of art and daily life quickly became a tenet of the early twentieth-century avant-garde, but it was also a concrete goal, and one that had a political impetus. Once daily life was executed along artistic principles...

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News That Stays News

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pp. 53-66

Documentary poetry has had an increasing role in American letters throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries, and it offers an opportunity to look at American society’s assumptions about the relationship of language to truth. Central to such work is the problem of how to reconcile the language of information with the language...

News That Stays News: Generative Bridges

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To Writewithize

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pp. 69-73

For most of the people ever likely to read this essay, poetry is primarily a visual experience. Even the most avid attenders of poetry readings probably encounter much more poetry through the eye than they do through the ear. One of the implications of this shift toward the visual is an increased emphasis on the visual aspects of language, which in turn requires...

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How Ekphrasis Makes Art

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pp. 74-81

Much of twentieth-century art was about the relationship between object and viewer, and one of its great lessons involved the power of looking, its potential as a creative process in its own right, and its part in constituting the art it sees. To paraphrase Wittgenstein, all seeing is seeing as. This idea is perhaps most readily available to contemporary sensibility through Duchamp’s readymades, which have become almost...

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A Hand Writing

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pp. 82-89

The word “line” presents a world of ambiguity: is it the “line” of verse, with its specific metrical or syllabic st ucture, or perhaps something written quickly, as in “I’ll drop you a line,” or is it, on the other hand, a line drawn as all or part of a visual image? Though often unnoticed, there’s a point where these two converge, a slippery instance at which writing actually becomes visual art and visual art becomes language...

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The Fold

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pp. 90-95

As phrased in a 2004 auction catalogue, where it was listed starting at eighty thousand pounds, the object under discussion is: Cendrars, B. La prose du Transsib

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Translating Writing/Writing Translation

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pp. 96-99

People who both translate and write are often asked about the relationship between the two—in the abstract, but also in the particular, in terms of how translating influences the practice o writing; however, the very question may be misleading in that it implies if not a dichotomy, at least...

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In Praise of Error

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pp. 100-105

Much thinking on translation is based on the assumption that it has something to do with two languages, but it’s not so much a matter of two languages as it is of the gap between them. And far from reducing that gap, translation usually increases it by making us suddenly aware of what cannot be said, not only in the other language, but also in our own...

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Translating Timbre

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pp. 106-112

A core issue in translation practice is the proper balance of language’s two principal poles, those of sense and of sound. The balance chosen is often uneven, displaying a traditional bias toward sense. This bias presents a problem for poetry, which relies so heavily on sound, and examining the choices that poetry...

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Translating the Visible: The Incommensurability of Image

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pp. 113-118

Translation has been claimed by many to be the deepest way of reading—and could it not also be the deepest way of seeing? Three issues related to translation offer ways into this question: image, emergence, and the ghostly. Works by two contemporary French writers, Caroline Dubois’s book...

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The Ghost of Translation

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pp. 119-121

Schopenhauer’s comment implies that to write is to cast yourself beyond death, which is to cast yourself out of life, which, as language constructs that thought, lands us in a liminal zone between these two extremes, which is what we’ve traditionally regarded as the realm of ghosts...


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For M. Moore

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pp. 125-130

Such animals as All over word wish if after It alters or: its afters only altar with such minute meanders we know it changed her, that she left altered that she lived altered and left here is all this is all of the animal. It’s almost locked in place, a pacing and a perpendicular heaven that hasn’t, that has not, that does not have...

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Besides, of Bedouins—On Hotel Lautréamont

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pp. 131-139

A hotel is distinguished by its many rooms, and a room always stands for a moment of the mind, so every collection of poetry is necessarily a hotel, a sequence of spaces threaded in and above, and therein we live, in passing, in a corridor, in what brushes by your sleeve, the underscore of breath...

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Cy Twombly, Hero & Leandro 1981–84

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pp. 140-143

What did you lose? is the sound of the sea. And why from a tower does an ocean seem to stumble, to fall on its knees and bleed a pure thin salt that could have stained a cheek had she been inclined, but not she, who decided, after all, to go with him. That’s what grief is, an accompaniment...

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Andscape: The Serial Paintings of Etel Adnan

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pp. 144-147

All its derivations—landscape, seascape, moonscape, etc.—retain a vestige of the original meaning of the suffix scape, which is escape—Chaucer 1370, “He sholde kisse his ers er that he scape”; Milton 1667, “nor did he scape,” etc. They all evoke an emanation outward, a flight that left, that breath can dust, as i the self were a certain theft...

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And And: on Laurent Pariente’s White Walls, Musée Bourdelle, Paris, 2006, which can be seen on a number of sites by searching under Laurent Pariente’s name

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pp. 148-150

The relation of white to wall: are lightly blinded, we walk up to it, almost invisible in the way that a mirror can render unrecognizable— we walk up to echo into—“When you touch a wall, the wall touches back” (Pariente). The walls in Laurent Pariente’s work are accretions of intersecting shadows, making us realize that a shadow is the principle upon which all that is impenetrable operates...

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Quand le corps est une phrase

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pp. 151-154

Grammar on the horizontal one of the bases of common to say it is moving, and then, as in the old song, “Let me count the ways.” in the public gardens, which is where, naturally, he These issues are raised again in each book—a body surfaces more thoroughly, a more thorough surface that moves toward continually; the page becomes fluid, refusing determined direction and offering space...

E-ISBN-13: 9780472027712
E-ISBN-10: 0472027719
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472051557
Print-ISBN-10: 0472051555

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Poets on Poetry

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Subject Headings

  • Poetry.
  • Poetics.
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