Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

National Poetry Month: Pirates of the Avant Garde

We are back with more from the Buffalo Poets (be sure to check out their others posts.)

By James Honzik

I remember in the late 80’s being reverently handed a 3rd generation xerox of Objectivist poet (and patron saint of the Language Poets) Louis Zukofsky’s 80 Flowers while walking down the halls of the New School. It had been published in an edition of 80 in 1978 – (and not republished until 1997) A poetic scarcity only circumvented by Langpo samizdat.

Now, with the web, and the growing number of online archives devoted to (for lack of better words) avant garde and experimental writing movements we are in a new age of access. Some of this work is up through the benevolence of the writer and creator, some of it, must belong to the true heirs of Mayakovsky.

Three great resources here,



Gray Lodge

(They have an rss feed!)

but there are others.

A quick sampling of things available

I have loved sound poetry since seeing Dutch poet Jaap Blonk read at Woodland Pattern Bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A reporter from the Milwaukee Journal was there, and writing his review must have been a quandry. Blonk gave interpretation of historical sound poetry, and then some of his own work. A fascinating performance, the reporter loved it, But would it play for the Journal’s audience?

Kurt Schwitters no longer lies in an umarked grave. And we are privileged to be able to listen his sound poem Ursonate and examine the score. … and more merz.

It is brave new world for the avante garde. It is now omnipresent, subtle, filtering through. Here, as anthem, an interpretive reading of Hugo Ball’s Karawane as performed by Marie Osmond. Legend has it in performance (she had committed the piece to memory) her eyes grew glazed and she entered a trance like, dada induced state.

The French Ouilipo (“Ouvroir de littérature potentielle”) movement was a literary anologue of the Nicolas Bourbaki school of math and the structuralist anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss. They developed new forms and constraint based techniques of creating works of literature. As described by cofounder Raymond Queneau, Oulipians are “Rats who build the labyrinth from which they will try to escape.”

A web based implementation of Raymond Queneau’s combinatoric sonnet. Cent Mille Milliards de poèmes.

The Oulipians created text for the stations of the Strasbourg Tramway, and through google translate, (that Oulipian dream) for english readers. After the rain, the beautiful tram.

Writers who have been marginalized or forgotten are finding a presence.

Cleveland book artist and visual poet d.a. levy is not forgotten.

You can hear the voice of Gertrude Stein

And Could You listen to Vladmir Mayakovsky. Yes.

And Samuel Beckett comes streaming over the web. Beckett directed by Beckett.

Krapps Last Tape

Wating for Godot


It comes in fits and starts, if you don’t have a quick pipe, but you can right click, and download the entire file. A 200 megabyte download, but in an hour, I will no longer be waiting for Waiting for Godot.

And here,

Varèse/ Xénakis/Le Corbusier – poeme électronique (1958)

These links cover some of the 20th century’s experimental movements, but there is new work arising. New forms, little bits of the amazing even rising out of the great shallows of the web. I would like to hear what you have to suggest. Something new. Something that has transformed the way you perceive the world.

Like this – an autistic woman describing her world, on youtube – In My Language.

Born out of the seedy underbelly of the poetry scene at the turn of the millennium – The Buffalo Poets, known buffallo1.jpgfor their unique energy and wit, began hosting open readings as a direct reaction to Slam Poetics and Cookie Cutter Style Poets found in New York City.Hailing originally from New York City, the Buffalo are composed of four core members: Roger Kenny aka King Otho, Aaron Arnout, Noah Levin and David Acevedo. The Buffalo have many artists throughout America including, James Honzik, Michael Franklin, Kevin Callahan and the infamous activist Rafael Bueno.

Recent Comments

There are currently no comments.