The following contribution seeks to understand poetry as a genre situated between written text and performance. First, it presents instances of the systematic differences between performed and written poems, defining ‘performed poetry’ in a decidedly broad sense. The metaphor of ‘aggregate states’ is tested and critically discussed in order to describe poetry as a genre that not only is received in a state of exception but that in its very essence plays between substantially different media and forms. Due to the dearth of critical work addressing poetry as a performative art, a set of terms and tools for the analysis of performed poetry is proposed. After these brief theoretical remarks, two poems are examined, both of which are accessible as performance and as a written text. Their differences are considered in order to show the potential value of separating and comparing performative and written elements for individual analysis as well as for further conceptual discussion.
Nora Gomringer’s „Dichtertreffen“ is presented by the author in the style of a classical reading (‚Wasserglaslesung‘), in which the artist, however, utilizes a full repertoire of performative channels and codes. As a result, the semantics of this performed variant differ significantly from those of the written text. The use of the body, objects, space, and voice alter the meaning of the poem even in a reading that, at first glance, does not conspicuously refer to performative art forms at all.
Martina Hefter’s poem about the physical condition of lying („liegen“) focuses on the dance-like handling of body and space in its performed version, which has little in common with a classical reading.
The discussion of two poems, written and performed, reveals the importance of considering both ‘aggregate states’ of the poem when working with texts and engaging in the recent debates of lyricology.