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Textes en performance
Colloque international
Genève, 27-29 novembre 2003

Ward Tietz, Georgetown University (USA)
Future Claims to the Category of Poetry

A dilemma confronts those of us who construct or perform poetic works that are not easily classifiable as texts. What claims do these other "things" have on poetry? To answer this question we might look to history, since poetry was song long before it was printed text, but for somebody like me, who makes large letters and three-dimensional words out of wood, wax, steel and other materials, poetic "thingness" appears to be more than what William Carlos Williams had in mind when he said, no ideas but in the things. But there's another end to the spectrum, too, in the digital domain, in spoken arts, in sound poetry and other forms, where "thingness" seems less than we're used to in print.

These differences in the thingness, though, are hardly provable; they are rather more the consequence of the structure of appearances and their effects on the management of memory and the experience of time. These differences in the structure of appearances manage time differently and make aspects of appearance more or less memorable. These differences put these "marginal" practices outside of the phenomenological center that anchors the category of poetry. If the management of time differs around this textual center, it is mainly because perceptual rhythms and intensities are altered: expectations of celerity, mass, scale and other attributes that print maintains are not observed.

While we might be dealing with a continuum of perceived thingness around the category of poetry, it's important that the category not be thought of as a thing. It shouldn't be thought of as an inventory of poetic objects, more or less. A more useful approach would treat the category of poetry like what Henri Bergson would have called an image, an existence placed halfway between [a] 'thing' and [a] 'representation' (9). A definition of poetry as an image is useful, since no material requirements are made of its apparition. Poetry as an image can be anything that appears poetic.

By stressing time and memory in poetic environments, Bergson's image can be easily transformed into something more: a temporal image. With this notion of temporal image I will present and discuss some examples of visual poetry, sound and digital poetry.