David Nowell Smith is Senior Lecturer in Poetry/Poetics at the University of East Anglia. He is author of Sounding/Silence: Martin Heidegger at the Limits of Poetics (Fordham, 2013) and Of Voice in Poetry: The Work of Animation (Palgrave, 2015), as well as the co-edited collection Modernist Legacies: Trends and Faultlines in British Poetry Today (with Abigail Lang, Palgrave, 2015), and is currently completing a project on WS Graham: The Poem as Art Object.
David Nowell Smith
Major advances in modernist poetics have long occurred through contact with experiments in the visual and plastic arts: one need only think of the “cubist” poetics of Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, and Gertrude Stein, of the New York School’s links to Abstract Expressionism, or, most recently, of conceptual writing’s regular citation of Brion Gysin’s claim that “writing is fifty years behind painting." Poets would find their community amongst artists; but also, the poetics itself would emerge out of critical engagement with the work of the poets’ artist peers: adapting compositional practices and techniques; adopting conceptual vocabularies. At times, this leads to intermedia experiment (Calligrammes, collage, concrete work); at others, to a renewed focus on the medium–specificity of poetry: both the peculiar possibilities of language as material and resource for art–making, and the repertoire of techniques and conventions through which this material is deployed.