to Poetry
To And/Or Realize

Edgardo Antonio Vigo


The step taken by the Brazilians of the primitively named "Process Poetry" movement to convert themselves into the present "Process/Poetry" was not of spontaneous generation. We must render just homage to Brazil, a country which with its currents of advanced poetry has been quantitatively converted into a driving force, adding to the the qualitative values that originate within these contemporary currents such as the Noigandres group of São Paulo, better known as the Concrete Poetry group (see "Brazilian Concrete Poetry" Dates and Testimony by Haroldo de Campos in Diagonal Cero No. 22 (June, 1967), 5-16). Augusto and Haroldo de Campos, Décio Pignatari, José Lino Grunewald, and Ronaldo Azeredo are those charged with establishing at the international level principles given at the beginning of our century, principles made ineffective by the eternally attempted reversion that inspires all epochs when "landmarks" that are too shocking come to pass - the middle-classification of culture by the profitable use of brand-new methods with classical content. The battle of this group will engender the Praxis movement - in a certain way an example of a linguistic revisionism through new forms, but in the case of many of its practitioners with a content that remains declamatory. As a result of a national evolution in innovative poetry, the Process Poetry movement was born.

With this movement a series of unsettling theoretical propositions, although not materially attained, is given definitive albeit relative form. We conclude from a re-reading of literary principles that many of them acquire concrete form in the poetry of the "process/poets." It is interesting to note a definition that Wlademir Dias-Pino prefers with respect to the dadaists:

There is the poem-object of the dadaists. Ours are object-poems. This is the same difference as that between the poem-book and the condition of book-poem. A book is that which imposes on all the condition of poetry-poem (a long poem); Dante's "Inferno" is a poem-book. The condition of poetry-poem (a long poem) imposes its structure on the book, in Dante's case. In the book-poem it is the expression of the material itself used in the book: the page structure, white paper, the permutations of pages, the transparency of the paper, the cut, the stanzaic divisions, and so on. Functionality is given by visualization in the process-poem.

The poem-object of the dadaists (and the surrealists) is nothing more than the prolongation of a received line, the illustrated poem - a game of literary images unchaining the construction of an object, paralleled by the author himself. For the process/poets, the object becomes poetic without necessarily utilizing the word as unchainer of the poetic phenomenon, without utilizing the word-poetry's traditional method of enchantment. The poetic-object of the "processors" is born in the field of the visual-spatial creating of a new language, a language in process.

It is in the escape from typography that the members of the group give its true sense, its shocking, epochal stamp. We have already put forward this thought in order to argue that, lamentably, all those avant-gardes with a true sense of shocking and aggressive surprise end up being gobbled up by those that, taking advantage of the change in context, continue positing traditional contents. We likewise accept that all eras calling for radical change contain within these contents forms that predict the stage of transition will go no further. As the new poetry has already gone far enough to meet this prerequisite, we hold that at the current time (in actuality) no movement can exist that pretends to call itself new if it does not adjust itself in an almost tyrannical manner to the principle of a perfect harmony between context-content. The process/poets overwhelm the concrete and praxis poets and locate their poetic objects in the proper pitch of the opening that will later permit the development of "poetry to arm" and then the "poetry to realize" being here postulated. We locate, then, the process/poem with its poetic-objects within an earlier stage of poetry to arm.

The poem to arm

We have to clearly establish the differentiations; these being subtle, they can result in error. Thence the reiteration of some concepts. When we speak of poetry to arm, we are limiting the conduct of the participant. We must not forget that this is conditioned in a fixed and inescapable way. There is the construction of a poetic-object or new poem determined by a "programmer" of process or of a poem to arm. Here the term "programmer" serves instead of that of "artist." This is already influenced by action and the relation which it maintains with society. If we speak of a technologically realizable serial art, with forms of easy reproduction and technical annexations, the reasons for continuing to use this term are obvious. "Programmed" does not necessarily mean one should comply with the exigencies of artesanal practice and be enclosed in a conception of the individualist epoch perfectly identified from the historical point of view, when the concept of the "unique work" existed.

The poem to and/or realize

We arrive here at the final stage of our work. Having analyzed some liberating factors and the "active actions" that have come to pass within the new poetry in these last years, we shall propose another step, within this species of progression towards a goal. Poems to realize place themselves against a fashionable and fully exploited trend, the art of consumption. If we take this without knowing how its acceptation is appraised, as the only need artifically created in order to be satisfied in art, perhaps then we would not attack it because, in the last analysis, consumption in different forms is a phenomenon pertaining to the life of relation. But the interests at play behind this oblige us to take a vertical and frontal position. The negation of man by means of the spectacle we accept as long as it absorbs its replica, an intercommuncative-ludic-individual art. On one point we are in agreement: the ludic. On others we are not, although this doesn't mean that, for the observer-participant-realizer (these would be the forms of human conduct faced with the actual work), it would be necessary to negate these changes in himself. We cannot forget that a television-cinematic observer (contemplative in order to develop hismelf into an active-critic) becomes a conditioned-participant in an exhibition or presentation, and finally, one fine day, apart from "armer" (Blaine) he can convert himself into a "constructor" of poems to realize. We must accept this "heterogeneity" of the aesthetic or artistic public, not a notion of the public that frees phenomena by believing in its own faith and consequently only admitting its own absolute truth.

We speak of the ludic as a point of contact among different ways of facing art, because in this unique way it is possible for society to resume its interest and participation in the phenomenon of art. Valid and accessible procedure based on the solution of an active participation in order to arrive at the MOST PROFOUND ACTIVATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL: REALIZATION by him of the poem.

The support of given elements (process/poem), the necessity of a previous design (poem to arm) gives way before the project of an idea that creates the shocking so that each one in turn on receiving it constructs a poem that will then change itself into "his" poem. This property, acquired by the free development of the reception of the shocking-idea, puts before us a "creator" and not a "consumer."

Argentina, which lamentably in all its prior artistic stages has been called to act outside of the international sphere of aesthetic communication and artistic information, outside of a process that requires universal characteristics, in these last years has taken a push that little by little is permitting it to enter "in parallel" (and not askew) with the universal feeling of man; this is problematized by certain ethnic characteristics, that continue to lose relevance on the dispersion of the cities. Art's possibility is not only in the participation of the observer but in his constructive-ACTIVATION, an ART TO REALIZE (see Ritmo, 3, La Plata, 1969) that has burned down the divisions of the inherited genres and that moves at the edge of total integration.

A confusion of techniques and genres has given way to the only center, ART. The present introductory essay should have remained in the area of poetry, but we feel that to close on the objects of "process" or "to arm" (and the already more liberated "to realize") in poetry would be to diminish the possibilities of free communication whose proper limits we must respect. Let us quickly escape this prison that we denounce in favor of a TOTAL ART. In it, we will arrive at the conquest in which the CONSUMER passes into the category of CREATOR.

From "De la Poesía/Proceso a la Poesía y/o a Realizar," Buenos Aires: Diagonal Cero, 1969, 0'6-0'10; English trans. by Harry Polkinhorn first published in Corrosive Signs: Essays on Experimental Poetry (Visual, Concrete, Alternative), ed. César Espinosa. Washington, D.C.: Maisonneuve Press, 1990, pp. 72-76; trans. revised 1998.

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