poem index

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)

spring love noise and all [excerpt]

David Antin, 1932
            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 tell when its spring
                                    my guess is it comes on some time
 in late february      and you hardly notice it      a few branch
  ends turn yellow a few wildflowers begin to sprout an 
occasionally different bird appears      and you figure it
 might as well be spring

            now thats a little different from springs i
 remember where i came from      in the east when its spring
      boy are you ready for it      if you lived in new york
 city or upstate new york about 130 miles north of the city
      the way you'd know spring was coming was that around the
end of march you'd hear rolls of thunder or cannonades that
  would mean the ice was breaking on the river you'd say gee
it must be spring the ice is breaking on the river      and it
 was like a series of deep distant drum rolls
  brrrrrrrrrrmbrrrrrrrrrrrm      and you didn't feel much
better about it      because the sky was still gray and cold
 and the trees were still bare

            in fact you felt better in january because the snow
seemed to keep you warm especially when the temperature got
 down around zero and the snow was piled up around the house
and along the roadside      because after every snow the snow
  ploughs would clear out the road and pile up the snow along
 the roadside into a wall from six to ten feet high that
 would shield the houses from the wind and you'd shovel out a 
pathway to the street      but inside it was warm      and pretty
  much everybody in this little town of north branch felt
 insulated and warm and pretty good in january as long as the
  heating fuel held out      and they didn't feel too bad in
february either

            but when the spring came      in march      and you
 heard the dull cannonade on the river      thats when you
started to feel bad      because it had been so cold and bare
 and gray      and you had been holding out so long for the
wild mustard and the goldfinches      and maybe the coming of
 the quince      that the sound coming off the river      that
  seemed to promise an entry into the land of the hearts
 desire      which you knew would take another month at least
      made you feel real bad

            so thats why when the spring came to north branch at
the end of march      it seemed that every year two people would
 hang themselves off their back porch      because they couldn't
  wait anymore

      but there was the other side of spring and you
expected great things of it      because you had read all those
 marvelous sweet and jingling poems by those provençal
bullshitters waiting for spring to come so they could go out
 into the fields and fuck and kill people      brash and noise
poems that went on as i remember something like "oh spring is
 here the birds are singing lets go out and fight some
  battles and make it in the grass" in a cheerful jingling and
 very overrated way
                             that my friend paul blackburn did the best
 he could with      which was to bury the jingle and jazz up the
noise a bit      to make them sound a little bit like ezra
 pound and a little bit like paul doing an east village macho
  number      and a lot better than they sound to my ears in
 provençal      and with poetic generosity he covered up the
banality of their vocabulary and their tedious ideas if you
 could call their attitudes ideas and it all sounded so
cheerful that we thought it must have been a good idea to sit
 in toulouse and welcome the spring

            but dont you believe it      toulouse is a dreadful
place and nobody wants to be there      everyone in toulouse
 would rather be in paris      so if you have a choice about
the spring you dont want to spend it in toulouse
                                                             paul actually 
 lived there for a while      and he was always running off to
paris or mallorca or to spain

            but wherever you are you are likely to have this
idea of what it means for spring to come      and you know how
 it will come and when it will come      because in your
expectations it always comes      in a neat order the way
  seasons do      because there are exactly four of them and
they are very nicely named and there are exactly three months
 in them and they very obediently follow the astronomical year

From what it means to be avant-garde. Copyright © 1993 by David Antin. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

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

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

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
         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