UbuWeb | UbuWeb Papers | Concrete Poetry: A World View
Mary Ellen Solt
From Concrete Poetry: A World View (1968, Indiana University Press)
The concrete poetry movement got under way in Belgium with the Exposition of Objective Poetry in Antwerp in 1962, organized by Paul de Vree and Henri Chopin of France. An audition of phonetic poetry was presented. But it should not be assumed that this collaboration between De Vree and Chopin implies a descent of Belgian sound poetry from the French experiments, for De Vree's poems had been sonorized prior to his meeting Chopin in 1962. De Vree's work differs from French sound poetry in that it "is based on rhythmic spoken words and syllables and uses mechanical expedients." One would not suspect, seeing "Vertigo Gli" on the page, that it is a "score" intended for electronic sonorization.
The sonorized poem implies an entirely
new concept of collaborative "reading." "It is
a collaboration in this sense," De Vree writes, "the
poem is prepared completely by me. In the studio I control the
diction and the recitation and work out the different tapes, the
sound material. The composer makes the sonorization (mixture)."
"Vertigo Gli" was sonorized by Jan Bryndonckx. The performance
would, then, vary somewhat with different voices (readers) and
a different composer, so the subjective element is present even
on the level of mechanical production.
"Vertigo Gli" defines the
international descriptive noun of our century, VERTIGO, in metaphorical
terms. "Gli" is from "glisser": the vertigo
of "glide" or "slide." Our life is a dizzy
slide down a ski-run ("skibann"). We make a mere
dot ("stip") on the snowy horizon against the sky and
disappear. Or, moving into the master image of the poem, which
sees life as an airplane journey, we are born, we rise ("stijgt")
to shine like the airplane brightly in the sunlight ("blinkt");
we exchange a glance ("blik") with someone--we are in
love--we slide ("glijbaan") going into orbit; we fly
away gliding (glijvlucht); shinning like faience (gleis), transfigured,
we live for a time in the high glittering, glimmering zone of
love ("glinstert," "glimpt" ); we glide (
"glist" ) and slip ( "glipt" ); we begin to
lower ( "straight"--strike sail ); the horizon stretches
out, and with the sound of the motor in our ears ( "woeng"
) we touch earth ( "grond" ), we die. De Vree speaks
of the poem as being "primarily concerned with our encounter
with love (erotic) during our passage from birth to death in our
short lifetime-- the essential fragments: a sudden wonder as well
as a sudden reality and the not-to-be-averted fall."
Mike Weaver has interpreted rightly,
I believe, "de wing" ("the wing"), "de
won"" (onomatopoetic play on "de wan""--"the
cheek"); and "de wimper" ("the eyelash")
as metaphoric identification of the airplane with the body of
the lover: the arms ("de wing"); the cheek ("de
won"") and the eyelash (the propeller) ("dewimper").
The sonorized poem, like all of the
recent experiments with sound poetry, is an entirely new experience
in listening where poetry is concerned. We are accustomed to the
interpretative use of sound on the sound track of the motion picture
and television show, why not make it available to the poem? The
new dimension of sound opens the way for new dimensions of content
or new articulations of the timeless content of poetry. "Vertigo
Gli," although made on the machine, is excitingly human and
"A rose," presented here
in English, is equally effective in the poet's native language.
It has also been sonorized, but it conveys its full message visually
as well. Gertrude Stein's classic, non-symbolic statement
is seen to be true in any language expressed by any medium. De
Vree also makes typewriter poems and edits DE TAFELRONDE.
Ivo Vroom, also of Belgium, shows
us that the words of the title of Mondrian's famous painting are
also able to make an aesthetic statement that suggests the structure
of the painting. Leon van Essche makes us aware of the formal
similarities of several letter forms. Vroom and Van Essche are
associated with the magazine LABRIS.