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Bodies of Poems

Graphic Poetics in a Historical Perspective


Lennart Nyberg

How is meaning created by a poem? Through the invisible ideas and thoughts conveyed by the text or through the physical presence of book, paper and print? In Bodies of Poems the author argues that the material properties of poetic texts are meaningful in their own right but often ignored and made invisible in poetry criticism. Through a number of examples ranging from the introduction of print technology in the fifteenth century to late twentieth-century poets such as Adrienne Rich and Seamus Heaney, this study examines the ways in which poems are products of the contemporary state of print technology, legal and social definitions of authors and texts, and culturally and historically determined assumptions about the self and the body. Although indebted to recent innovative work in textual criticism, this book is a pioneering attempt to place the study of poetic texts as material artefacts in a sustained historical narrative.
Contents: Graphic Poetics in History: Poems referring to themselves as material artefacts - Copyright legislation and the definition of the poem as a commodity - The Romantic merging of text and self - The nineteenth-century development of print technology and the increasing possibilities for graphic elaboration of texts – The Word: Modernist attempts to make poetry material – The creation of poetry as an elite art - The critical negligence of graphic poetics in the inter-war years – The Body: Poems as representations of sounds, paintings and organic fields - The poetic work of an author as a representation of the body of the author – The Past: Poems as physical representations of time and space - Words as archaeological objects.