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The New Poet-Reader
Mary Ellen Solt

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

The new visual poem challenges the creativity of the reader, but it also presents him with certain problems. Until he realizes that it is up to him to help create the poem, he is more often than not somewhat baffled by the object which presents itself. It is for this reason that I have attempted to read the poems. For the. most part the readings are my own, but incorporated into some of them are perceptive remarks made by members of the family, friends, translators who helped with the WORD GLOSS. In a few instances I sought or was given help by the poets. It is hoped that the reader will be encouraged to make his own readings with the help of the WORD GLOSS; for once he realizes that the design of the poem, which he can enjoy simply as itself on one level, is really an invitation to explore its "interior" structure, he can experience a new active and creative way of reading--perceiving--that is infinitely rewarding, and he can find himself reading poems in the original from languages he doesn't know.

Whether or not concrete poetry is a temporary or a permanent evolution of linguistic art form is unpredictable and beside the point For the poem will go where it needs to go, rather where it is man's spiritual need for it to go. If it needs to return to more complex grammatical structures, it will. But right now it seems to need to go to the foundations of meaning in language, to convey its message in forms akin to the advanced methods of communication operating in the world of which it is a part, and to be seen and touched like a painting or a piece of sculpture, not to be shut away always between the dark pages of a book. And this need is being felt throughout the world.

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