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by Emmett Williams


(...) "The editor´s own definition — were he to attempt one — would place the emphasis on poetry rather than on Concrete. Concrete as opposed to what?  Analogies with the visual arts de-emphasize the poetic element in favor of the visual, which is but single  (though consequential) aspect of the new poetry. Yet it has been labeled (and the general reader will probably come to the book with some such preconception) a return to the poem as picture: to the Calligrammes of Apollinaire, the mouse´s tail in Alice, the permutational poems of the cabalists, the anagrams of the early Christian monks, the carmina figurata of the Greek Bucolic poets, the pattern poems of the Babylonians, picture-writing itself. Indeed, the poem as picture is as old the hills, or the men who once lived in them, scratching their histories and fantasies in preliterate strokes on the walls of caves.

But the makers of the new poetry in the early fifties were not antiquarians, nor were they specifically seeking the intermedium between poetry and painting, the apparent goal of so many of their followers. The visual element in their poetry tended to be structural, a consequence of the poem, a "picture" of the lines of force of he work itself, and not merely textural. It was a poetry  far beyond paraphrase, a poetry of direct presentation — the word, not words, words, words or expressionistic squiggles — using the semantic, visual and phonetic elements of language as raw materials in a way seldom used y the poets of the past. It was a kind of game, perhaps, but so is life.  It was born of the times, as a way of knowing and saying something about the world of now, with the techniques and insights of now.

From:   AN ANTHOLOGY OF CONCRETE POETRY. Edited by Emmett Williams.  New York: Something Else Press, 1967.   342 p.  ilus.      hard cover

See Concrete poems here: 



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