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This is an extraordinary and genuinely groundbreaking study of the most challenging contemporary poetry written today in both USA and UK. Presented originally as a series of public lectures and talks, Tony Lopez takes us with him in this new collection of essays, through the most penetrating analysis of abstract and difficult postmodern poetry written on both sides of the Atlantic. He attends to important American poets, such as the ‘Language’ poets, their Avant-garde predecessors and the New York School, who are largely unknown and unread in Britain, including David Antin, Lyn Hejinian, Ted Berrigan, and Bob Perelman, together with better known American poets such as John Ashbery. He reads radical British poets not widely known in America such as J.H. Prynne, Denise Riley, Allen Fisher, Andrew Crozier, Edwin Morgan and W.S. Graham, presenting new work also on the international writings of Tom Raworth and Lee Harwood. He shows how these poets articulate beauty in their writings, how they attend to life’s human complexity and engage with issues of widespread public concern. These essays show an exceptional range and familiarity with different traditions of radical writings, with the different histories of American and English poetry, making links to the most widely studied and best known of modernist writers such as T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. What is truly remarkable about Lopez’s study of the most demanding recent poetry is the constant lucidity, the lack of jargon and complete clarity of his critical writing which shows a profound regard for his readers, specialist and non-specialist alike.
‘Almost all critical work on contemporary experimental poetry is theory-driven: it works out arguments and exemplifies them by the poetry. Tony Lopez knows the theory better, so he begins with practice. He brilliantly shows how the innovations in these poems are driven by syntactic possibilities, appreciations of new possibilities of rendering time, possibilities of organizing textures of discourse, and by a fascination with what had seemed impermeable borders between the arts. Therefore he pays better attention to both the intelligence of the poets and the portability or imaginative uses of the poems. And in doing that he brings new life to their modernist predecessors like Stein and Pound because he intricately develops how their innovations bring continuing vitality to the present.’ —Charles Altieri, Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley
‘Lopez experiences poetry with an exemplary intensity; he performs this intensity in this striking book on British and American innovative poetries. Meaning Performance articulates in an intimate and engaged fashion Lopez’s passionate assessments of poets’ acts, forms, modes, poetics, mutual influences, careers and cultural values.’ —Rachel Blau DuPlessis