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Turkey, Finland, Denmark
Mary Ellen Solt

From Concrete Poetry: A World View (1968, Indiana University Press)

No one can say why a strong concrete poetry movement involving established writers develops in one country, as in Czechoslovakia, and in another you find one or two or here or there an isolated concrete poet. Yüksel Pazarkaya of Turkey, for instance, seems to be working as a concrete poet in closer contact with the Stuttgart group than with poets of the Turkish language and culture. We also learn of Kurt Sanmark of Finland, whose poem "maskor" is written in Swedish, through the ROT international number edited by Elisabeth Walther and Max Bense. Vagn Steen of Denmark thinks of himself simply as "poet" and dislikes the label "concrete," but his sense of the text as a word game and his use of constructivist methods place much of his work within concrete territory.

Steen asks the question: "What is a poem?" And he would like the reader to answer it for himself. Probably no concrete poet has taken more seriously the charge to the reader that it is up to him to complete the text himself. It is even possible, Steen contends, that the reader may make a better poem of the materials than the poet. He takes this aspect of the question so seriously that he has conceived of the idea of a book with perforated pages so that the reader may tear out poems he doesn't like. Going even farther, he published a book with blank pages bearing the title WRITE IT YOURSELF (in Danish, of course). The edition was sold out, and the number of poems received by Steen from his "readers" was overwhelming. Once for an exhibition he wrote on a mirror some words which in English would go something like this: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most . . ." and the reader was to complete the "poem" by looking at his own face. Steen feels that if the reader is unable to accept his texts as poetry, that's his problem, for the poet has made his highly serious and at the same time delightfully playful gesture. The Danish language lends itself particularly well to the kind of word play we find in Steen's visual text.

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