John M. Bennett has published over 400 books and chapbooks of poetry and other materials. He has published, exhibited and performed his word art worldwide in thousands of publications and venues. He was editor and publisher of LOST AND FOUND TIMES (1975-2005), and is Curator of the Avant Writing Collection at The Ohio State University Libraries. Richard Kostelanetz has called him “the seminal American poet of my generation.” His work, publications, and papers are collected in several major institutions, including Washington University (St. Louis), SUNY Buffalo, The Ohio State University, The Museum of Modern Art, and other major libraries. His PhD (UCLA 1970) is in Latin American Literature.
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This massive selection of over 40 years of Bennett’s poetry and visual poetry includes an in-depth essay on Bennett by Ivan Argüelles. From that introduction:
“A critic once said of Lost and Found Times (John M. Bennett’s seminal under-ground press mag,1975-2005): “Insults… the past 3,000 years of literature.” One could apply that criticism to the whole of Bennett’s dazzlingly varied and maddening output. One could even ask with some justification: Is this poetry? Where to begin analyzing let alone writing about this baffling and certainly most “avant-garde” of all artists/poets living and working in the U.S.A. today? I recommend checking out his short video (one of many he has created) called “Olvido del surr,” in which he reads with Luis Bravo; one gets both the intended oral quality of the poem (which sounds like some eerie Meso-American Indian ritual chant) as well as its visual and typographical effects. For, above all, Bennett’s “poetry” is more like a meta-poetry that requires all the visual and aural senses to appreciate it. His experimentations over the years have encompassed particularly the expanding world of visual poetry (vispo), an extension of what used to be referred to as “concrete poetry”…. The structure of the poem on the page gradually becomes a work of art, divorced from its mere semantic sense (or lack thereof) as it seems to appear to the reader. Bennett employs numerous techniques, not the least of which is his own “polyglottery,” frequently moving in and out of English, Spanish, Portuguese, French or some Mesoamerican language. In the above mentioned video, “Olvido del surr,” all these “techniques” are brought to bear. …. Bennett’s reputation is to some extent international, and he has been published in France and Latin America. His interest in Mesoamerican culture and languages has drawn him frequently to that part of the world where he is a recognized figure. So it is frustrating that, outside of the relatively small avant-garde experimental performance world where Bennett is a prime mover, he is so unknown and unappreciated in his homeland. As with the music of John Cage, what may seem aleatory is in fact more intentional and grounded than is first apparent. Bennett has roots in traditional literatures, those of Siglo de Oro Spain and of Elizabethan England, but he is capable of transducing those literatures, metamorphosing them by way of the radical avant-garde movements of the 20th century, such as Surrealism and Dada, into something utterly innovative and unexhaustingly New, such as few contemporary artists have done. It is the purpose of this essay to hopefully advance a critical awareness of John M. Bennett and his fabulous, multifaceted œuvre.
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