IZfK Band 2, 2021 (1)
Contemporary Lyric Poetry in Transitions between Genres and Media
Editors: Ralph Müller, Henrieke Stahl
The article deals with the question, what the expression „world lyric in transition“ should mean in literary scholarship by giving some explications for the expressions lyric, world lyric and transition.
This contribution examines the question of how contemporary lyric poetry expands upon established generic concepts by considering the work of Monika Rinck, one of the most striking voices among a generation of exceedingly talented poets who made their debut in the 2000s. In her poetry, we find numerous examples of how the expectations of lyric are deliberately undermined: among them, formal features reminiscent of prose, such as her tendency to use extremely long lines and prose-typical abbreviations, as well as her explicit interest in the discursive exploration of ‘concepts.’ As her essays suggest, this interest manifests itself most readily in Rinck’s efforts to avoid the totalizing economization of society (as well as art and language) and has, as a result, motivated the development of her own style within experimental language poetry. However, while Rinck has played a leading role in expanding the contemporary concept of poetry, the poetic principles to which she refers in her theoretical writings and poems are by no means new. In this article, her poem „Augenfühlerfisch“ (“eye-tentacle fish”) serves not only to illustrate her tendency to expand poetry into discursive prose but demonstrates how it is rooted in a long-standing philosophical tradition. The terminology used in the poem can be traced back to early modern epistemology and particularly to the foundation of scientific aesthetics by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten. In referring to Baumgarten’s definition of poetry as “fully sensuous speech [vollkommen sinnliche Rede]” (as well as the specific deployment of this definition by Johann Adolf Schlegel), it becomes clear that Rinck reactivates an epistemological potential in lyric that had been hidden by the paradigm of Erlebnislyrik [experiential lyric]. Moreover, Rinck is able to relax the Erlebnislyrik’s pretense to sincerity in part thanks to the same prose features, such as the multiplication of voices, already mentioned above.
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.
This paper is focused on a relatively new phenomenon: joint performances by poets and avant-garde (primarily electronic) musicians in contemporary Russia. In part, these performances are reminiscent of performances by American and Western European poets with jazz ensembles in the 1960s and 70s. At that time in the Soviet Union, this practice was almost unheard of: when intermedial experiments did take place, poets – particularly the so-called “official” poets – turned not to music but to theatre. The most important elements of these performances were their emphases on virtuosic improvisation, the theatrical immediacy of what was taking place, and creating a community around the performer. In contrast, contemporary collaborations between poets and musicians largely demonstrate the non-self-sufficiency of their respective media and, in doing so, deconstruct the very premise of the poetic (lyric) subject. My contention is that intermediality as such – in this case, the interaction between music and poetry – could thus be the most important tool available for creating a “poetry without a subject.” Moreover, in practice, it has acquired a salient social and political meaning in modern Russia: depicting culture as a space of individualized dialogues and polylogues.
The discussion focuses on two performances based on female-authored poems, “Riding a Roller Coaster Flying Toward the Future” (2011) and “Roaming the Fuchun Mountains with Huang Gongwang” (2016), which resulted from the joint efforts of four women: the poet Zhai Yongming, the poet-scholar Zhou Zan, and the theater directors Cao Kefei and Chen Si’an. Their avant-garde experiments with poetical theater document the different ways in which poetry is being translated into images, sounds, or bodily movements on stage. The paper argues that poetic exploration of writing and reciting practices has gained new momentum from emerging intermedial, visual-verbal experiments. Furthermore, it claims that interest in “poetry theater” is also driven by the search for new forms of cross-genre stage performances that could be different from the previously politicized or commercialized ones.
The article identifies this shared response to media and globalization among a variety of examples in Chinese, Russian, and English, including Kirill Medvedev’s «Текст, посвященный трагическим событиям 11 сентября в Нью-Йорке» (“Text Devoted to the Tragic Events of September 11 in New York”); Stanislav Lvovsky’s «Чужими сдовами» (“In Other Words”); Dmitri Prigov’s «По материалам прессы» (“Based on Material from the Press”) and “ru.sofob (50 x 50)”; Lin Yaode’s 林燿德 “Er er ba” 《二二八》(February 28), Hsia Yü 夏宇 and her collaborators’ group project “Huadiao huadiao huadiao” 劃掉劃掉劃掉 (“Cross It Out, Cross It Out, Cross It Out”), Yan Jun’s 顏峻 2003 multi-media video performance “Fan dui yiqie you zuzhi de qipian” 反对一切有组织的欺骗 (“Against All Organized Deception”); online video poetry produced in response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake; and Brian Kim Stefans’s mashup of “New York Times” articles with texts from the Situationist International. On the one hand, these texts operate between various media and art forms: between poetry and contemporary art, music, journalism, and social media, between the print newspaper and digital file, between the webpage and live performance, and between image and text. But on the other hand, and inextricably, they also operate within global information networks. They are better understood as addressing not the transformation of the poetic subject but the undoing of the boundaries of poetry and of the concept of a nationally defined literature.
Internet poetry clips are a multimedial hybrid form that comingles features of different literary genres, such as lyric, epic, and drama; different modal categories, such as spoken language, writing, gestures, and facial expressions; and medial modes, such as text, performance, video clip, and documentary. This paper deals with the central features of three selected internet poetry clips: “A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender” by Aranya Johar, “Water” by Koleka Putuma, and „Ohne mich“ by Sandra Da Vina. The focus is on the media-specific forms of personal union between author and performer in each of these works.