Dial-a-Poem

Dial-a-poem

In a 1970 Arts Magazine article, art critic Gregory Battcock said: “The new curator is more concerned with communication than with art.” In a 1958 essay on Jackson Pollock, Happenings artist Allan Kaprow said: “They will discover out of ordinary things the meaning of ordinariness.” In a 1981 interview, poet John Giorno said: “I certainly won’t curl up in a chair with a book of poetry.” Dial-a-Poem, Giorno’s New York City–wide poetry installation instigated in 1968, used the technology of the telephone, a plastic handheld thing, to relay poetry as if it were simple information. The messages were poems recorded by poets and artists, from John Ashbery to Bobby Seale. For a period of about four years, anyone could dial 212.628.0400 on a rotary telephone and hear a poem. Art and writing at the end of the 1960s had expanded into new kinds of experience. Almost anything could suddenly be labeled “art”—a pile of tires, a conversation, the sound of rain outside a window. Turning away from the heroics associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement—the grand gesture—artists and writers suddenly understood the actions of an ordinary life as a type of poetry. In addition to art’s expansion, the poem on the page expanded, the definitions of “media” expanded, the frame of the picture expanded. Art and life, for a short time, became concomitant.

more from Katie Geha at Poetry here.

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