Frame (1971-1990)

Barrett Watten, Author Sun and Moon Press $13.95 (325p) ISBN 978-1-55713-239-0
The so-called Language movement, nearly two decades old, has already embarked on summary publications, by way of anthologies (Ron Silliman's In the American Tree, Douglas Messerli's The Other Side of the Century) and an increasing number of selections (e.g, Charles Bernstein's Republics of Reality, 1975-1995)--and now Watten. Seminal in the early stages of Language poetry while on the West Coast (he now teaches at Kent State), Watten is perhaps the most immaculate of the movement's radical practitioners, his work spare where Silliman's is lush, sober where Bruce Andrews's is reckless. Tightly controlled, Watten, as this collection of eight smaller volumes shows, is intent on asserting how language operates in a vacuum, or should, if it wants to be free and true: ""A chain link fence around a vacant lot filled with/ trash. As if a _____ were inside them . . .// A beam of sunlight refracted by a prism/ makes a display.// Until language is only relation--and we are/ being spoken in a dream."" Watten works this vacant lot over and over, leaves his language there, and moves on. It's his peculiar and lasting achievement. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
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