Sounding time: Temporality, typography, and technology in twentieth -century American poetry
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“Sounding Time: Temporality, Typography, and Technology in Twentieth-Century American Poetry,” places the visual page of poetry within a larger technological and scientific framework. While examining the work of three poets, Charles Olson, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and David Antin, I uncover the relations between poet and machine, technology and temporality. I argue that each poet's re-conceptualization of time is intertwined with his or her use of a specific technology. For Charles Olson, the time of the poem is linked to the scoring capabilities of the typewriter. In the early 1950's, Olson saw the typewriter as a perfect scoring device; by the late 1960's, however, he began incorporating handwritten spirals into his work, breaking from the rigid temporality outlined in his early poetics. Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee is a visual and poetic text influenced by her work as a filmmaker. In my examination of Dictee , I consider Cha's use of photographs and film stills, many of which are torn, sutured, or stained. I argue that these photographic “imperfections” are attempts to represent the puncturing of space-time. For David Antin, audiotape recordings of his semi-improvisatory performances generate the asymmetrical, unjustified line breaks of his “talk poems.” I argue that these line breaks foreground the impossibility of adequately transcribing performance and I also consider the numerous technological malfunctions that his talk poems recount. Ultimately, each poet presents the temporal as a generative and creative force that cannot be reduced to the official homogenous of the nation. To represent this generative temporality, these poets reconsider their relation with technology, and enact a malfunctioning of their medium. In this malfunction, these poets embrace the imperfections of their recording devices in order to resist the false totality promised by technological determinism.