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This article is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.

Towards a Conceptual Lyric : From Content to Context Marjorie Perloff
- Too many poets act like a middle-aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears). I don't give a damn whether they eat or not. Forced feeding leads to excessive thinness (effete). Nobody should experience anything they don't need to, if they don't need poetry bully for them. I like the movies too.
- Frank O'Hara, 'Personism: A Manifesto' (1959)1

Don't think any intelligent person is going to be deceived when you try to shirk all the difficulties of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths.
- Ezra Pound, 'A Retrospect' (1918)2


Public Perceptions

Scene: The State Dining Room of the White House on the afternoon of 11 May 2011. Occasion: A poetry workshop held under the auspices of Michelle Obama for high school student-poets. The workshop has been organised by the First Lady's close friend, the Yale poet-professor Elizabeth Alexander, who wrote the Inaugural Poem for Obama in 2008. The four participating poets are the former laureates Rita Dove and Billy Collins, along with - implausibly enough3 - the conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith and Fluxus performance artist Alison Knowles. Seven teenage students have been chosen to read their work, and in the evening there is to be a poetry reading by Dove, Collins, Goldsmith, Knowles and a few others, with President and Mrs Obama in attendance.

After Alexander makes a brief introduction ...


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