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About this poet

Born in New York City on February 1, 1932, David Antin was educated at City College of New York, where he studied science and languages, and New York University, where he studied linguistics and received an M.A.

An experimentally driven poet, Antin’s early published work used found text, or juxtapositions of different kinds of texts to create new linguistic and philosophical meanings. In the late 1960s, Antin’s work often took the form of "talk poems," which were improvised pieces that he would perform extemporaneously. This work allowed Antin to be inventive, while also subverting the monotony of the "standardized" poetry reading. The poems themselves were often motivated by the location of the reading and the attendant audience. These poems were often recorded and some semblance of the original spoken texts were transcribed and published in Antin’s poetry collections.

Antin has published over ten books of poetry, including the talk-poem books Talking and Talking at the Boundaries along with other texts: a novel, an autobiography, and a conversation with Charles Bernstein. He has also written a great deal of critical essays, some of which, including an influential essay on the avant-garde, have been translated into Slovak and Hungarian.

 

An art critic and visual/media artist as well as a poet, Antin has also written essays and given art talks at such institutions as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Sorbonne and the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, where he has been a Fellow. Some of Antin’s recent visual media work has been in filmmaking, notably, a series of "Micro-Films" which are slide sequences of words and images that accumulate to create a very short film.

 

He has received numerous honors and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He received the PEN Los Angeles Award for Poetry in 1984.

Antin has taught in the experimental visual arts department at the University of California at San Diego since 1968. He lives in San Diego with his wife, filmmaker and performance and installation artist, Eleanor Antin.

A Selected Bibliography

Definitions (1967)
Code of Flag Behavior(1968)
Meditations (1971)
Talking (1972)
Talking at the Boundaries (1976)
Tuning (1984)
Selected Poems: 1963-1973 (1991)
What It Means to Be Avant-Garde (1993)
A Conversation with David Antin (with Charles Bernstein) (2001)
i never knew what time it was (2005)
john cage uncaged is still cagey (2005)

the second hundred: for sid luft

David Antin, 1932

1.

there are two sides to every story and to abbreviate one side is to diminish a side of a wall    creating an absence that is stronger than any presence and making any attempt at accurate construction hopeless    sid luft is such an accusative absence    perhaps you have never had to address yourself to a wraith    to proceed adverbially    naming effects as of the wind upon trees or Van der Waals forces on a surface    but sid luft was a test pilot    had flown grumman p 47's called thunderbolts and twin-fuselaged p 38's called lightnings    and thought it an agreeable task    his eye proceeding over the control panel checking the readings on all of the luminous dials    letting his ear discriminate among the complex series of metallic sounds that would allege a private relaxation    the way it takes the sharp eyes and quick ears of an astronaut to foresee a future failure in the allusion of a single dial    what is out there is altogether conjectural    that is the attraction that can take a smart boy out of his apartment and suspend him over an entire atmosphere    this applies also to arctic explorers whom also some bubble must arouse    let this be an attempt at assessment


2.

you know how a small deviation in the suspension of a balance wheel can lead to a barbarous inflection of the entire mechanism?    bringing a belgian police dog to sit in your lap or a bicycle to rest under a moving van    and the imperfection is only borne in upon you once it has passed a certain boundary?


3.

and in a car a defect in the low speed carburetor circuit will leave the entire carriage sucking for air at anything below the highest throttle speeds    so it is necessary to go on a splurge in cincinnati and choose a tomato soup red oldsmobile before going to chef's college    to infuse a vessel with air here becomes a commission    it is required to create a sense of competition where there isnt any    on a farm by the connecticutt    then to stand back at a street corner refraining from criticism like roger de coverley    as much of a spectator and as kindly    a moss covered rock coolly withstanding the current


4.

such a machine is guaranteed to bring you to despair precisely when the situation isnt desperate    because a mounting anxiety approaches a maximum when you have nothing to record in your diary and you have nothing to fall back upon except a tenuous self-discipline


5.

which supposes not only a set of earnest resolutions    promises made to Eliot for a regimen of self-improvement to be undertaken in the doldrums    dance lessons at 12:00    voice in the afternoon    and strict control of your diet    the problem is how to go on being enthusiastic about swallowing air in the evening    it means being equipped with the sense of a soft worm under the shell of a mollusc    which is an excellent image but finally fails to exhilarate if you have never seen it


6.

yet what continues to fascinate us in the shell are the continuous depositions of calcium    which we undertake to unwind like a bandage    while each roll is just like the last    allowing for minor accidents    and merely somewhat smaller    it does not fulfill our expectations    but the belief that there is something to fulfil in our expectations is fundamental


7.

a guard outside of a warehouse suggests there is something to protect


8.

the idea of hypocrisy is expensive


9.

for someone to scream incidentally and interrupt lunch


10.

similar cases in "temporary amnesia" are also known


11.

all you have to do is go to the library to become convinced that they are very likely    energy coming from somewhere striking like lightning


12.

annulling a marriage in a minute    such impulsive behavior modifies the entire history of a landscape    when a car breaks down it appears there was always something wrong with the motor


13.

to a man on a tightrope the Falls at Niagara are the truth of a river    and living to ninety appears like a sudden nomination


14.

its hard to maintain your obedience to impulse when you know that at 5 o'clock you're about to enter Mercy Hospital for a colitis operation    which leaves you nothing to do but pretend that under the ether you're going back for a look at your origin


15.

have you noticed how psychological states are all nouns    Happiness  Sorrow  Rage  Fear  and Shame  are never named participially say    like Smiling-Preceding-the-Storm or Lining-the-Depths-of-an-Outer-Darkening or Something-Preferred-to-Nothing?    its almost worth becoming a professor and obtaining a right to prophesy    erecting a science of naming and calling it Pyschology    finding a net in our hands meaning that there is something we pursue


16.

Judith what i have to say will be lost in this quiet for which i was never quite successful at promoting an antidote


17.

the knack of a child cupping a radio to his ear on his walk through the traffic    i would really have liked to wrap you in music in elevators and airliners    which i could recommend over amphetamine for its more regular rhythm


18.

to engineer another moment in the wings at the palladium and wait for an illumination from the scene to come and seize you    what we can expect of speaking sincerely is an elevation of feeling that we can equate with sincerity    which makes Wearing-Your-Heart-On-Your-Sleeve more than a becoming fashion that can fit any college sophomore and be successful    it needs a desire to be stretched while you are still superintendent of your passions    to which you will ultimately surrender


19.

and recalling the moment of your triumph is a roll call of reporters in which i even remember Ted Thackerey of the Compass    the last time we were truly together


20.

though in your memory it was undoubtedly different


21.

maybe you remember a village where i was a villain


22.

and the weather was bad    yet you didn't know whether to leave or take Joey and Lisa to the movie    the separate inventories of facts in the memories of people who have shared common experiences are weird    though perhaps only this division preserves the welfare of individuals and is insurance against the inevitable separations of pairs of men and women

From Meditations. Copyright © 1971 by David Antin. Reprinted with permission of Black Sparrow Press.

From Meditations. Copyright © 1971 by David Antin. Reprinted with permission of Black Sparrow Press.

David Antin

David Antin

A poet, visual media artist, critic and essayist, David Antin has published over ten books of poetry and critical essays, and has lived and taught in San Diego, CA since 1968.

by this poet

poem
         about two years ago elly and i decided we needed a new mattress 
or maybe elly decided it    because i didnt pay much attention to the 
  problem
               we had an old mattress wed had it for years and the salesman
 wed bought it from had assured us it would last us a lifetime    and it
was
poem
it appears whole
it has been
thought of
as good
not reasoned out
he uses
he is bound
to a state
he has recognized
even if the description is a delusion
it is worth while to speak of logic
frequently 
it depends on knowledge
to translate it
suggests conflict
which is 
implied
in the word
demonstration
it would
poem
            but i wondered what i would talk about      because
 here in southern california youre never really sure when
spring begins      i mean the experience of spring      the
 vernal equinox is one thing      but spring is something else
      and ive been living out here twenty years and i cant
 always