Charles Bernstein and I founded IEPI in 2008 I think. After a successful start we lost focus and energy and IEPI came through a couple of years slowly to a halt. In 2014 only four posts were published. In the past weeks I wondered what to do with IEPI. What can we as "an international point of contact for the exchange of information" still offer in these times of information overload? Not too much, I'm afraid. Not more than a personal story about what it means to be a poet in 2015. But maybe that's enough. I'll give it a try. My reporting on IEPI will be interlarded with personal opinions and anecdotes.
It was a tweet by Done Share (he has by the way more than 12K followers) that pointed me to Marjorie Perloff's essay about "the deep minimalism" of Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006). To be honest, the name Finlay didn't ring my bell, but both minimalism (an attractive poetic alternative in my view) and Perloff (always good for some interesting thoughts) did. And, having read it, I can say that if you are interested in concrete poetry you certainly should turn to Perloff's essay. She does a fine job unraveling Finlay's work. About the poem pictured above this post she says:
"One's immediate response to Finlay's text is to read it as an Imagist nature poem: the four-three line stanzas invoke natural phenomena, from "Green Waters" and "Blue Spray" to "Moonlit Waters" and "Drift." "Star," furthermore, appears four times and "waters" twice. But who are "Anna T" and "Karen B," much less "Netta Croan"? And how do these proper names relate to "Constant Star" and "Starwood"? The fact, as the use of capital letters throughout hints, is that Finlay's poem is a catalogue or proper names. If we read it against related texts of the sixties, we soon see that these are indeed the names of particular fishing trawlers from Lowestoft, Aberdeen, and other ports. "These names," Stephen Bann tells us in his commentary, "are a given material, derived intact from the real world ... [they] lose the inertness appropriate to their strictly functional role. The poem restores their intrinsic delicacy." Or rather, from a Wittgensteinian perspective, one might say that the context transforms all the words and phrases, showing how variable the process of naming is, ranging as it does from proper names with initials like Karen B to names that pay homage to the watery world in which the trawlers live. One is even named Drift."Finlay's work make me as a 2015 poet once again aware that words are the material poems are made of, and that meaning depends above all on the context.
"The Deep Minimalism of Ian Hamilton Finlay", Marjorie Perloff, The Battersea Review.