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Concrete Poetry I (1965)
Max Bense, Germany

This is a kind of poetry which produces neither the semantic nor the aesthetic sense of its elements, words for example, through the traditional formation of linear and grammatically ordered contexts, but which insists upon visual and surface connectives. So it is not the awareness of words following one after the other that is its primary constructive principle, but perception of their togetherness. The word is not used primarily as an intentional carrier of meaning. Beyond that it is used as a material element of construction in such a way that meaning and structure reciprocally express and determine each other. Simultaneity of the semantic and aesthetic functions of words occurs on the basis of simultaneous exploitation of all the material dimensions of the linguistic elements which, of course, can also appear to be broken up into syllables, sounds, morphemes or letters to express the aesthetic dependence of the language upon their analytical and syntactical possibilities. In this sense it is the constructive principle of concrete poetry alone which uncovers the material wealth of language.

Whatever consists of signs can be transmitted; that is, it is the subject, emission, perception and apperception of a communication scheme that can typify a specific design pattern which concrete poetry can show. Let us now enlarge the concept of concrete poetry. Concrete texts are often closely related to poster texts due to their reliance upon typography and visual effect; that is, their aesthetic communication scheme often corresponds to that of advertisements. The central sign, often a word, takes on polemical or proclaiming function.

Concrete poetry does not entertain. It holds the possibility of fascination, and fascination is a form of concentration, that is of concentration which includes perception of the material as well as apperception of its meaning.

Thus concrete poetry does not separate languages; it unites them; it combines them. It is this part of its linguistic intention that makes concrete poetry the first international poetical movement. In South America and North America, in Germany, France, Italy, England, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, in Czechoslovakia and Japan there is concrete poetry. Already well-known poets are making use of this important experimental way of writing. . .

Tr. Irene Montjoye Sinor M. E. S.
(From Rot 21)