Robert C.L. Crawford

The large collective known as Language poetry (one anthology features nearly forty poets) began in San Francisco and New York in the 1970s, with a style of extreme fragmentation. Some poets in the emerging group also offered theoretical interpretations of this work. A critique of Language theory must be distinct from one of its poetry. Not every Language poet has written much theory, and one can’t assume the theory of one applies to another. (Coolidge and Armantrout, for example, haven’t written much theory.) Even with the poet-critics themselves, it’s best to hold their theory and poetry at a slight remove.

In 1977 a collection of essays by several Language poets appeared in the journal Open Letter. In their pieces, Ron Silliman, Steve McCaffery, and Bruce Andrews linked this fragmentary poetry to a Marxist critique of capitalism. Silliman said capitalism had corrupted language itself, and described their movement as engaged in an “active class-struggle” that would end when “the productive forces control the means of production and consumption: in short, communism.” Steve McCaffery’s “The Death of the Subject,” the most utopian and fervent of the essays, declared that “linguistic reference is a displacement of human relationships and as such is fetishistic in the Marxian sense.” The disruption of syntax in these shattered word collages was said to reveal language’s materiality beyond commodified use. Their underdetermined meanings could subvert the writer/reader hierarchy through a “radically political invitation to the reader” to turn from narrative consumption to participatory praxis—stirring revolutionary consciousness. “Reference is no longer...the opiate of the reader,” McCaffery wrote. Fragmentation could start the revolution.

Out of paranoia or reverie, or both, Language linked capitalist corruption to linguistic meaning itself, a view as bizarre as it was terminal. McCaffery called this work “post-literate,” and Andrews pondered whether it showed a “nostalgia for illiteracy.” The movement’s most revolutionary hopes fizzled, but much of the early theoretical writing proved enduring, especially its skepticism of language as a neutral, transparent medium and belief that language is always ideological.

The conundrum is that the Language poet-theorists expressed their political convictions (in poetry though not in prose) solely on the level of form rather than content. They believed the typical political poem to be hopelessly trapped within the “commodity fetish”; instead what was needed was a “politicized” poem—one with a radical form. The pursuit of a new poetic form (extreme fragmentation) progressed on its own and was then given a very specific interpretation. In applying certain external ideas (e.g. that language is corrupted under capitalism) the poet-theorists interpreted the formal meaning of this poetry far too narrowly. Forms do possess political resonances, but these are multi-faceted and malleable. Early terms for this work included not only “language centered” but also “minimal” writing, and it has clear parallels with minimalism in the visual arts. One could easily conclude from the poems themselves that they are entirely aesthetic and apolitical.

Whether a poem is effective or not is a matter beyond form, so fragmentation was no guarantee of an interactive experience. Where the form succeeded, as in Coolidge’s early books, it produced a sparse new lyricism; where it did not, one found the opposite of what was claimed: a very specific, random, and flat reading. Even as these theories were being developed in the late 70s the poetry was moving on, to milder forms of lyric disjunction, as in Coolidge’s Own Face and early books by Lyn Hejinian, Rae Armantrout, and Charles Bernstein.

In 1978, Andrews and Bernstein started the influential poetics journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. In a selection from the journal they wrote, “Our analysis [is] of the capitalist order as a whole and of the place that alternative forms of writing and reading might occupy in its transformation.” Lyn Hejinian clarified their political theory by noting that the subversion of the writer/reader hierarchy “rejects…by analogy, the authority implicit in other (social, economic, cultural) hierarchies.”

Consistent with their views on the means of production, Language built an independent publishing network of presses and journals. This institutional autonomy, enabled by the small press revolution, is in many ways their most distinct group feature. Language is probably the only movement to achieve autonomy on such a scale, even as their history indicates some of the risks involved.

One might think an insular poetry group engaged in fruitful dialogue and writing and publishing prolifically on their own might simply enjoy their separate, creative life. Alongside this, however, came a pointed attack on the entire poetry world outside their circle. Most notably, in a speech delivered at the 1983 MLA convention, Charles Bernstein excoriated “official verse culture”—the major presses, journals, and university programs—as ideologically tendentious. The mainstream didn’t sufficiently recognize Language favorites including Marxist poets like Zukofsky and the other Objectivists. The canon was very much in mind, and it was something they couldn’t change from outside. This supposed political bias was also personal, as Bernstein implied the mainstream was withholding funding from their group. Language had created an independent infrastructure but was then criticizing the existing one for ignoring them. Ironically, in contrast to this blast, recognition or at least visibility would seem to have been relatively forthcoming. Bernstein had already edited a 50-page Language selection for The Paris Review, and The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book appeared the next year. Most decisively, the literary critic Marjorie Perloff soon became their leading advocate.

Meanwhile their attack on representation shifted to a critique of the “voice-centered” poetry of the mainstream. They opposed the widespread use of a situated persona as a narrative center or, as Hejinian said, “the romantic, unitary, expressive self, the ‘I’ of the lyric poem.” Language demanded a sense of identity that was more fluid and aware of its relation to society. The so-called mainstream poems of the 80s and 90s were indeed generally bland and repetitive, with a dearth of imagination and irony, and a tendency to the flatly literal. To the Language poets, anyway, it was also no coincidence that the kind of poetry supported under capitalism took an individualist perspective.

In its opposition to “voice-centered” poetry, Language was attacking neither the lyric nor the lyric self, even if it sounded that way, but what might be called the literal or centered voice. Their resistance to representation and the “voice-centered” approach were both part of what enabled them to advance the lyric. The lyricism of the movement’s best poets is evident, whether writing in fragmentary or disjunctive forms. Language’s greatest formal innovation is its variety of the disjunctive lyric, as in the work of Armantrout, Coolidge, Hejinian, Scalapino, Bernstein, Silliman, and Howe. The movement developed many versions of this new lyric, with the “new sentence” being one.

Their broad critique of the mainstream was accurate enough (which is not to say the average Language poem was much better than the average mainstream one). At the same time, they were seemingly uninterested in something more detailed and nuanced. From their theoretical writings, one would think they were the only poets not using a “voice-centered” approach. Bernstein said the entire mainstream could disappear and “new poetry…would hardly feel the blow,” nearly equating innovation with their group. Such exaggerations of their own originality could obscure their real contributions.

Within the mainstream, for example, or published anyway by those institutions invited to vanish, was a poet whose use of the “de-centered voice” preceded their own. Whose voice is more “de-centered” than Ashbery’s? At times, their criticism sounded like they were advocating an Ashberyian approach while barely mentioning his name. Ashbery’s poems are flowing paths for subjectivity in which nearly every “I” can be read as a “you,” and vice versa. (This work shows that lyricism and a “de-centered” approach are not contradictory, as Language and its critics have implied.) As Language progressed, Ashbery was an established poet writing at the height of his powers, and though they cited his fragmentary second book as influential, that was about it. Together The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book and A Guide to Poetics Journal represent twenty years of Language criticism; the former has no analysis of Ashbery’s literary output, and the single relevant essay in the latter is on whether one Warhol painting influenced one Ashbery poem.

This might seem a noteworthy critical lacuna or repression, but even so, the context is a general insularity. If one imagines a “burning of the Library of Alexandria” scenario in which Language theory were the only literary record to survive, one would get an outrageously distorted view of poetry in the last century. They ignored many of the major poets of the past, and they wrote little on contemporary American poetry outside their group. This was not comprehensive criticism but, as they said, poetics: a public discussion among poets on their craft. Its limitations are only notable alongside its enormity. Supposedly anti-academic, Language wrote more theory than perhaps any English-language poetry movement ever.

In 1990, Silliman called for them to enter the academy—“with all the emotional conflicts one might expect of a starving person trying to pick edible scraps of nourishment out of a pile of vomit.” The explicit goal was to influence the canon; admired poets were being forgotten and otherwise, he said, they would be too. Soon Robert Creeley recruited Charles Bernstein and Susan Howe to found the Poetics program at SUNY Buffalo, and others went elsewhere. Eventually, Language poets were published by the same literary and university presses some of them had previously derided.

By the time Rae Armantrout received the Pulitzer Prize, the NBCC Award, and a National Book Award nomination for Versed (2009), any divide between Language and the mainstream was gone. There are no higher accolades “official verse culture” can confer. Moreover, the mainstream got it right; Versed and Armantrout’s previous book, Next Life, are among the best in recent poetry. Though not the dominant influence, Language is one element of the mainstream today. A couple of Language poets are in the Norton Anthology with many more in Norton’s Postmodern Poetry.

“We do not contain multitudes,” Silliman wrote, “so much as we are the consequence of a multitude of conflicting and overdetermined social forces.” Their rhetoric could sound of collectivist extremism, but in practice one sees a group of individuals working together for a larger purpose. They never pressed for conformity, and their leading poets have distinct, recognizable styles. For all their hostility to poetic assertions of identity, their personal identities are strikingly central to their self-presentation. Members skeptical of the group label itself referred to “the so-called ‘language poets.’” Their manifesto1 states their central principle as “the reciprocity of practice implied by a community of writers who read each other’s work.” The same is true of any voluntary workshop. The manifesto authors declined to grant more original notions this status because that would impose on others in the group.

The Language poets understood themselves as an example of what a literary collective can be, writing in the manifesto that “other writers and groups ideally would pursue their ends in similar ways.” They enacted their project through frenetic activity, voluminous documentation (including a ten-volume group autobiography), and the sheer bulk of their production.2 Langpos discussed langpos in introductions, talks, essays, reviews, blurbs, and interviews. Their enormous output was estimated at 300 books—back in 1988. Their institutional autonomy informed this production, or over-production, but that was how they realized their project. If the signal-to-noise ratio wasn’t great, it hardly matters so long as the reader knows where to start.3 Language poetry has given us their example as an independent poetry collective and some lasting books, with a few extraordinary ones.

Conceptualism arose in the 90s. The aesthetic legacy of Language poetry can be viewed as impersonal, abstract, formal, and lyrical; conceptualism extended all but the last of these. Its distinct methodology is to use an idea or process to generate the poem. The most visible and innovative of the conceptualists, Kenneth Goldsmith, was a studio artist before becoming a poet, and besides the Language poets and other writers the new movement drew inspiration from the visual arts through Duchamp, Warhol, and the conceptual artists.4 Just as Language can be understood as a “conceptual project”—the manifestation of an independent avant-garde—conceptualism can be viewed as the wittiest entry in the debates on the “death of poetry” in those years, which included Language’s attack on the mainstream. When many poets were unintentionally unoriginal, Goldsmith embraced unoriginality and became original.

In 1996, Goldsmith founded the avant-garde archive UbuWeb, and the next year he published his first major work, No. 111 2.7.93–10.20.96. This 600-page “useless encyclopedic reference book” contains phrases ending in the “er” sound, sorted by syllable, and concludes with the full text of the D.H. Lawrence short story “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Fidget records every physical movement he made in a day. Soliloquy transcribes every word he spoke in a week—the same week he met Marjorie Perloff. We hear him anticipating their lunch at MoMA, in hopes of getting a blurb from this “deeply powerful” figure, hear him gossiping with her, and then hear him gossiping about her. Soliloquy is an exhaustive portrait of the artist as networker and self-promoter that stages a pervasive side of the creative life, schmoozing, within its art.

In late 2000 Goldsmith began re-typing a random issue of the New York Times, a project that became the 800-page Day, his best known book and first work of “uncreativity” (long-form appropriation). Day alters the newspaper through a stylistic flattening: all visuals are omitted, and all text—headlines and ads, stock quotes and articles—gets the same type treatment. Far from the “valueless” practice he describes, this reframing provokes considerations of the newspaper as cultural artifact; ad copy interrupt articles, for example, recalling the financial systems behind the news. Next Goldsmith followed Bernstein to UPenn and released a trilogy of radio transcripts, The Weather, Traffic, and Sports—a year of daily weather reports, a full day of ten-minute traffic reports, and the commentary to the longest nine-inning baseball game. Most recently, Seven American Deaths and Disasters features real-time media transcripts on historical events like the assassination of JFK and 9/11.

Like his acknowledged hero Andy Warhol, Goldsmith expresses himself through the ephemeral and generic. Conceptualism’s efforts “against expression” only reveal further subtleties. “The suppression of self-expression is impossible,” Goldsmith wrote. “Even when we do something as seemingly ‘uncreative’ as retyping a few pages, we express ourselves in a variety of ways.” Reframed and represented, the ephemeral and generic can become both strange and personal—from Soliloquy’s convoluted speech patterns to the way all of his books can be read as an homage to his home, New York City. Similarly to The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein, these massive works essentially demand to be skimmed, creating an interactive, chance-based encounter reminiscent of another precursor, John Cage. Therefore they are much more successful as printed books, and they don’t excerpt well. Goldsmith has said that knowing the idea behind his works is enough, but one can’t really get a sense of Day without flipping through it.

There are other leading conceptualists. Robert Fitterman draws text from menus, PR materials, and photo captions in Metropolis 16–29, Metropolis XXX, and The Holocaust Museum. Craig Dworkin published Parse, a translation of a grammar manual into its own terminology. Christian Bök is the author of Eunoia, with chapters that each use only one of the five vowels, and the forthcoming Xenotext project, which applies poetry to bioengineering. Vanessa Place’s Tragodia trilogy appropriates public court documents from her work as an appeals lawyer for sex criminals, with graphic, emotionally detached accounts of sexual violence. Benjamin Friedlander’s Simulcast makes minor alterations to appropriated texts, changing their subjects while retaining their rhetorical architecture; (a history of existentialism becomes a survey of Language poetry). Ara Shirinyan’s Your Country Is Great appropriates Google searches for a list of countries using the phrase “[country] is great.” The results comment on the internet’s representational capabilities and short-comings, as well as international politics and culture, with contrasts like wealth disparity being starkly revealed. Caroline Bergvall’s Drift incorporates conceptual approaches into a lyric meditation on the sea across the centuries.

With methods like appropriation and transcription, conceptualism focuses on the editorial side of literary creativity, and many of its works can be thought of as editorial experiments. By focusing our attention on a particular facet of writing, the movement may contribute to literary criticism, by inspiring scholarship on the conceptual aspects of canonical literature. The works of Dante, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Stein, and Joyce all have conceptual dimensions, and the framework of The Inferno is clearly a part of its poetry. Conceptualism is concerned with this kind of poetry, the kind behind the words.

Basic methods like copying may produce complex and powerful books. Goldsmith’s works appear uniform but can be oddly striking in their details. He has cited Sianne Ngai’s term “the stuplime” to describe the experience of his work as alternating between the “stupefying” and the “sublime”: the ordinary suddenly becomes alarming. This can also be understood as an aesthetics of research. The experience of Place’s uncreativity is very different, as each word moves us one step further in a brutal world, which is this world.

Whereas Language created by fragmentation, to oppose representation, uncreativity does the reverse, copying an abundance through unitary re-presentations. The meaning of the uncreative works are similarly underdetermined, however; their extended quotations possess an inherent irony but with all the ambiguities of mere presentation. Goldsmith’s uncreativity emphasizes materiality, or rather the materialization of the ephemeral, and while Language prioritized writing over speech, he lifts ephemeral speech into writing. The way Day flattens the stylistic markers of text status recalls how Language ruptured grammar to show the material equality of words. The primary purpose of Goldsmith’s project is not political, however, but aesthetic and experimental; Place’s uncreativity is more akin to Language’s political emphasis. Tragodia relentlessly confronts the reader with political and moral ambiguities—it is by far the most disturbing and morally fraught of the conceptual works.

Many have been outraged by conceptualism and Goldsmith’s provocations in particular. Some have said that this work isn’t poetry at all, calling into question poetry’s status as the most expansive category of literature. If we accept Duchamp’s work as art, then Day and Tragodia must be art. If we deny them as poetry, we have imposed a division between poetry and text art. Shouldn’t poetry want to include text art? Conceptualism’s excessive claims shouldn’t distract us from the work, while granting a label of “poetry” is not an evaluation. And Goldsmith’s books aren’t the most boring books of poetry being published—far from it!

The most galling and irresponsible of Goldsmith’s claims for the conceptual movement is the exclusivity claim, which is closely connected to his efforts to uniquely align their movement with the internet. “The underlying ethos and modes of writing have been permanently changed,” he wrote, describing conceptual methods as “the correct” approach while others like original writing are obsolete and “cannot be considered contemporary.” This betrays a simplistic view of art, as though it develops in one direction at a time. He wrote, in a futurist rapture: unfolding today according to the logic of short-term efficiencies. . . . This new generic horizon rising before us is one so saturated with embedded calculation that it sucks almost every prior mode of literary production out of view. A new ecstasy of language has emerged, one of algorithmic rationality and machine worship.

This ignores that his own books are highly time consuming and labor intensive, and why original writing is obsolete in poetry but not in other forms, such as the essay just quoted, is conveniently unaddressed.

Certainly a movement that goes back to Dada can’t be dependent on the internet. A book essentially identical to Day was published, outside an arts context, in 1929.5 The early conceptual poet Vito Acconci employed the same methods of radio and newspaper transcription in the 1960s.6 Kathy Acker was using long-form appropriation before the internet, and some of Goldsmith’s own books were written before broadband existed. Plus, regarding what is contemporary, conceptualism itself began nearly a generation ago.

Goldsmith has admitted that his most excessive claims were intended to gain attention:

The critical system is in shambles. . . . So, all we’re left with is the poet to frame their own work. So, I’m often accused of being too strident, too biased, too narrow-minded, too hyperbolic and so forth. . . . I’d rather throw it out there then with all this hyperbole, biases, and polemics to get people talking. No one can possibly expect an artist to be neutral. . . . There was no critical establishment representing, say, Marinetti when he was writing, so he had to get out there and scream manifestoes from the rooftops. He was really nuts. But we’re not in so much of a different position than he was 100 years ago!

When conceptualism is seen as one approach among others, the whole conceptual vs. lyric conflict basically evaporates.

The internet has resonances with both original writing and conceptualism. Digital archiving and copy/paste functionality facilitate appropriation while social media, email, and text messaging facilitate communication via original writing. Surely never in the history of the world has there been so much original writing. The claim that the internet was somehow related to the end of original writing in poetry will likely be conceptualism’s most ridiculous legacy.

The exclusivity argument, reckless but typical enough for manifestos, was ultimately undone not by criticism but by poetry. Several books written in the last decade, undoubtedly contemporary and outside of either Language or Conceptualism, conclusively disproved such nonsense. Many of these were first or early career books, notably written by a number of poets in these pages.

The movement’s critical breakthrough was in 2010–11. Perloff’s Unoriginal Genius culminated with a discussion of Goldsmith, who read at the White House, released his own critical volume, and co-edited with Dworkin the conceptual anthology Against Expression. In 2012, an anthology of conceptual writing by women, I’ll Drown My Book, was released by Bergvall, Place, and others. The following year Goldsmith was named the first poet laureate of MoMA.

The institutional success of the movement likely shaped the trajectory of a simultaneous one, Flarf. The flarfists—K. Silem Mohammad, Drew Gardner, Sharon Mesmer, Katie Degentesh, Nada Gordon, and Gary Sullivan—wrote humorously outrageous poems using text appropriated from Google.7 Opposite in tone yet sharing certain methods, the two developed a rivalry. A rapprochement was signaled in 2009 when Goldsmith edited a joint Conceptual/Flarf issue of Poetry, and a couple of years later Flarf was apparently folded into Conceptualism when most of the flarfists appeared in the Dworkin/Goldsmith anthology. By then conceptualism had gained such institutional status that it made sense to jump onboard.

At the start of this flurry of recognition and legacy-defining activities, the movement was still innovating, as Vanessa Place’s work stirred outrage and discussion. Soon, however, even longtime supporters suspected its most transformative years were behind it. Johanna Drucker’s essay “Conceptual Writing was Intriguing and Provocative” noted that the movement had “ceased to break new ground” and was “probably over now, even in its newest iterations.” Place objected that this implied “aesthetic movements follow each other like right and left feet”—a reasonable point, and one many had been telling Goldsmith for years.

The conceptualists often say Brion Gysin’s 1959 remark that “writing is fifty years behind painting” is still true today. That was arguably the case in 2000, at least in terms of appropriation. “In truth,” Goldsmith said, “I’m not doing much more than trying to catch literature up with appropriative fads the art world moved past decades ago.” His books accomplished their goal; the delay was long but the catch-up brisk. Conceptualism will continue,8 but its most revolutionary phase is probably done. Poetry moves slowly, however, and even as its innovations have slowed, the movement’s real influence may not have been felt yet. In time it may become a secondary influence for a large number of poets, with a broad, diffuse impact as a kind of “New American Dada.”

Conceptualism is most usefully understood as a form, specifically the form of new forms. Because its method collapses form and content, a new conceptual work necessitates a new literary form. In describing No. 111, Goldsmith said, “I wanted to create an object that couldn’t be named, categorized or identified.” When conceptualism exhausts a form, this becomes an accepted form. (Any accepted form retains a vestige of its conceptual meaning.)

By Goldsmith’s fourth book of media transcripts,9 Seven American Deaths and Disasters, one doubts that the project is conceptual anymore. His earlier books had rendered the form recognizable and intelligible. This project also has obvious historical interest and value. He seems aware of the change; the postscript presents it as a bookend to his earlier work, and his next book will not feature media transcripts. Christian Bök’s Eunoia is a similar case, although here the author has not exhausted his own form but used a pre-existing one. The novel La Disparition (1969), by Georges Perec of the Oulipo group, omits the letter “e.” Eunoia is virtuosic, but whether it is truly conceptual is debatable. Tellingly, Dworkin and Goldsmith are aware of this critique: “What makes the work decidedly conceptual is that it attempts to incorporate all of the eligible univocalics [unique vocal sounds].” After Oulipo, vowel restriction in itself does not make a project “decidedly conceptual.”

A common problem with avant-gardes is how they aggressively fight to control their reception, which can misdirect us from other understandings. The foremost connection between Language and Conceptualism is the supposed impersonality with which they resist normative declaration. Who in the last century developed the most conspicuous “impersonal theory of poetry,” writing that “the emotion of art is impersonal” and “poetry…is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality,” while also using fragmentation, appropriation, and a de-centered speech “in different voices”? Neither movement has much of substance to say about this, whoever it was.

The conceptual/lyric argument is only the latest front in the “form wars”—pointless debates more traditionally fought out between practitioners of free verse and prosody. All three—free verse, formalism, and conceptualism—have traditions going back a century and are themselves established forms. The more profitable exploration is to see how these can be advanced and integrated into new syntheses.

Dworkin has noted conceptualism’s “open rejection of some of the fundamental characteristics of poetry.” Such exclusions are at times necessary for advancements, through concentration and focus. The task today is different. Poetry today is characterized by formal variety and a refusal to be divided over formal categories. What is needed—what we are seeing—are new expansions and inclusions.

The term “avant-garde” might be said to imply two ideas: progress and a group. If we emphasize the latter we get a label conferred by consensus to a recognizable group, the former and we may get the idea of all contemporary experimenters apart from affiliation or even acquaintance. Either way, the next avant-garde is already here. Language and Conceptualism can no longer collectively represent innovation, even approximately, and although poets from those movements remain a part of it, they do so as individuals and only as a part.

To restore a total poetics is to end the form wars and to reintegrate into a forward-looking art such rejected approaches as direct articulation and an engagement with the psychological self, the political world, and the spiritual or metaphysical experiences of life. These belong to the solid core of poetry. What does art take for its materials? All of life. To the extent that these are part of life, they are of concern to poetry. This is the opposite of solipsism; it is a desire to see the world and a willingness to speak. An actual fluidity of self in poetry is able to move between the centered and de-centered. And the new movement will be personal, insofar as it is articulated by individuals.

One might suggest that a poet needs three things: something to say, inspiration or the feeling of life in language, and artistic form or structure. These are emphasized by the didactic/allegorical, the romantic, and the classical. Conceptualism’s new classicism, in its austerity and its humor, has made us see such things anew. All writing is collaged and transcribed: transcribed thought and collaged vocabulary. Appropriation is the statement of an original echo, and procedural work expresses the spontaneity of a concept. Today all original writing is deemed “lyric”; one may further say that all the conceptualists ever wrote was the conceptual lyric. Poets learn from each other but write like themselves. In doing this we find our way forward, and everyone will find their own way.


1 Silliman, Harryman, Hejinian, Benson, Perelman, and Watten, “Aesthetic Tendency and the Politics of Poetry: A Manifesto.”

2 Oren Izenberg writes that Language’s defining achievement is its “manifestation” of itself. (Being Numerous, 159.)

3 For anthologies see Postmodern Poetry, ed. Hoover; From the Other Side of the Century, ed. Messerli; and In the American Tree, ed. Silliman. Good places to begin for individual collections are Clark Coolidge, Space, Own Face, The Crystal Text; Leslie Scalapino, Considering How Exaggerated Music Is, It’s Go in Horizontal; Rae Armantrout, Next Life, Versed; Silliman, Tjanting; Bernstein, The Sophist, Recalculating; Howe, My Emily Dickinson; and Hejinian, My Life.

4 The conceptual art movement began in the 1960s and includes Sol LeWitt, Douglas Huebler, Adrian Piper, Lawrence Weiner, and Joseph Kosuth.

5 One Day reprinted the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin of June 4, 1928.

6 See Acconci, Language to Cover a Page, ed. Dworkin.

7 For Flarf, see Deer Head Nation by K. Silem Mohammad and The Anger Scale by Katie Degentesh.

8 Les Figues Press, founded by Vanessa Place, is a leading conceptual press. A second generation of conceptualists is also publishing online at Troll Thread and Gauss PDF. The former is unofficially linked to the Buffalo Poetics program while the founder of the latter has worked at Jacket2, which is run through UPenn. The movement thus remains somewhat tied to its original Buffalo–Penn nexus. At the same time, that Les Figues and Gauss PDF are based in California may indicate a new development.

9 Goldsmith’s forthcoming Capital is based on Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, a massive commonplace book of quotations and notes on 19th century Paris. Capital will retain a similar structure but will consist entirely of quotations on 20th century New York City.