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Mary Ellen Solt

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

Diter Rot is always identified as the concrete poet from Iceland; but he was born in Germany and, as we have seen, was associated with Gomringer in Switzerland during the time when Gomringer was in the process of arriving at a new concept of the poem. Also he was closely associated with the Darmstadt Circle, who published one of his books as MATERIAL 2; and he has lived in the United States.

Rot is an artist of many talents: poet, painter, sculptor, film maker, graphic artist and designer. And it shows when he makes a poem of the page. The "ideogram" presented here is an example of the kind of concrete poem which attempts to rid itself of the author's subjectivity so that the reader is permitted to make of it what he will. I read it as a death poem, for "tu" ( "you" ) turned around becomes "ut" ("do" of the musical scale)--"you,' translated to another state. But Daniel Spoerri reading it in a slightly different typographical version sees two interlocking squares which ''form at their intersection the two little words ut and tu." This might mean, he says, "that there is no meeting without reciprocal influences." I once showed a slide of this poem to a group of people who insisted that it is a love poem. Rot places a remarkable typographical design before the reader and forces him to make his own poem. Sometimes he doesn't use words at all and the reader is free to explore whatever possibilities he sees created by the tension between the blank space of the page and the sign or signs Rot has placed upon it, which always make a form.

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