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)

the theory and practice of postmodernism—a manifesto [excerpt]

David Antin, 1932
         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 getting older and lumpy or lumpy in some places and hollowed out 
  in others and    i just assumed it was part of a normal process of aging
 it was getting older we were getting older and wed get used to it     but 
  eleanor has a bad back and she was getting desperate to get rid of 
this mattress     that had lived with us for such a long time and so
 lotally      that i thought i knew all its high points and low points     its
eminences and pitfalls    and i was sure    that at night my body
 worked its way carefully around the lumps    dodging the precipices
and moving to solider ground whenever it could
                                              but maybe eleanor
sleeps more heavily than i do    i have a feeling that i spent much of 
 my life at night avoiding the pitfalls of this mattress that i was used
to     and it was a skill id acquired over the ten or fifteen years of this
 mattress’ life     so I felt there was no reason to get rid of this mattress
that had been promised to us by a salesman who said it would last the
 rest of our lives     i figured we were going to live long lives i didnt  
think we were anywhere  close to dying     so neither was the mattress
  but eleanor kept waking up with backaches
          still i figured it was a good mattress and that elly just didnt have
 enough skill at avoiding the lumps      it never occurred to me that the 
mattress was at fault     so i didnt  do anything     and elly didnt do
  anything because shes not into consumer products and hates to go
 shopping    but by the end of a year elly convinced me     because she
  has a sensitive back and i dont     that she had a more accurate
  understanding of this business than i did      so I said sure eleanor  
         lets get a new mattress      were rebuilding the house       as long as
were going to have a new house      we may as well have a new mattress 
 but eleanor said how will i know its a good one     i dont want to get 
another mattress that gets hollowed and lumpy and gives me backaches
 when i wake up     how will i know how to get a good one
         i said well open the yellow pages and well look up mattresses and 
 therell be several places that sell them       and ill close my eyes and 
point a finger at one of these places      and it will be a place that has 
 lots of mattresses where we can make a choice as to what constitutes 
 a good one by lying on them

Copyright © 2005 by David Antin. From i never knew what time it was. Reprinted with permission of the University of California 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
            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
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

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