what is conceptual poetry? Twitter Answers

I was delighted to have come across this thread, and yes – conceptual is more suited to BBP, some work is experimental, some conceptual, some surreal, some visual poetry….some lyrical but all experimental. Language is a virus but discussions on Twitter help. I appreciate all those who answer or share their thoughts, and who ask the questions…how lucky are we live in this age of tech, like!

Kathleen Ossip

OK, I’m a weirdo, but every time someone uses the phrases “experimental poetry” it’s like a knife in my heart. 

Sean Thomas Dougherty

Kathleen it is strange how that phrase has such little meaning to my ear in the 21st century.

Kathleen Ossip

I agree and even more strange that people persist in using it as if it is meaningful.

Linda Voris

Wait. But if you wanted to describe the difference btw Bishop and Stein, loving both, what words would you use?

Kathleen Ossip

I don’t think it can be summed up in one word. And I don’t think one of them is more experimental (if we must use that word) than the other. I love both too. I do think Stein highlighted the materiality & connotative vs denotative qualities of language more than Bishop tended to?

Linda Mills Woolsey

For me, labels don’t work to do this. Every term seems like a box into which only imitative poems exactly fit. The strongest poems seem to me always to be experimenting at the edges of whatever box wants to claim them.

Kamran Javadizadeh

Do you know the Stevens line? “All poetry is experimental poetry.”

Kathleen Ossip

I did not. Fellow weirdo.

Jill Bialosky

With you. I mean what else should poetry be.

Stacey Duff | 丁丰

Do you mean “experimental poetry” may be a redundancy or may be an oxymoron?

Kathleen Ossip

I think I mean that there’s usually the implication of marginalizing or othering poetry that the person using the phrase feels is outside of the comfort/familiar zone and obvs all poetry should be outside of the comfort/familiar zone.

Kristen Hanlon

Yeah, I hear you. Ever notice how “experimental poetry” and “innovative poetry” are often used interchangeably, even when the poetry being described is…neither?

Kathleen Ossip

knife to the heart.

Matthew Zapruder

Dean Young said to me once about experimental poetry, “there’s been 30 years of experimenting, it’s time for some results!”

Jeffrey Pethybridge

this is the name of my workshop this term / it’s in our couse catalog @kerouacschool / it’s not a kk idea to my heart nor do I think “experimental” does more than indicate a genealogy of poetry across the long 20C into the present—

Kathleen Ossip

Would “procedural” be a more accurate word? Do you use it to suggest a variety of approaches that highlight the materiality of language more than premodern poetry did?

Jeffrey Pethybridge

I didn’t choose the title of the class; it’s just the title of WRI 715 (lol) / that focus on materiality and adventure in poetic form are part of the genealogy for sure / some other things like critical-skeptical stance toward lyric I is another important one, I’d say

lots of times I teach really contemporary books and contextualize them within the set of stances, dreams, forms, and ideas of experimental poetry across the long 20C

Mukund Gnanadesikan

I’m not the expert you are in this field, but from what I’ve seen, different editors seem to define “experimental” in a broad spectrum of ways. Often what it makes me think of is something that is too conceptual for me to relate to.

Kathleen Ossip

I don’t consider myself an expert but that’s one of the reasons I hate the term, because it basically means whatever anyone decides is “weird” or “confusing” or “different” or whatever.

Mukund Gnanadesikan

I have the opposite problem. When I see a magazine or press asking for “boundary-pushing, innovative, experimental work”, it often discourages me from submitting because I don’t violate conventions as much as I consider “experimental” work to do.

Annie Finch

Agree. i prefer the term “exploratory poetry,” which feels a bit more accurate and a lot more engaged. “Non-representational poetry” (which I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody use) seems like it could be a useful term as well.

Kathleen Ossip

I don’t know…if a poem isn’t exploratory (or experimental) I don’t think I’m interested in it. So why use either term to mean any kind of specific or narrow approach?

Chris Santiago

Surely other folks have had run-ins with the Conceptual Poets? Just me?

Kathleen Ossip

I mean…isn’t every poem supposed to be an experiment? That’s why I hate the word used to box in a certain branch of poetry.

Ragedy Jean

I met a woman who formed and fired clay boxes that she strung with thin threads over small patchworks she’d scratched and glazed to resemble maps or chess boards that finally hung uselessly on her walls and she called them poems. A poem is a poem if you say so.

Julie Phillips Brown

Maybe it would be useful to distinguish between “experimental” and “Experimental” poetries? I’m with Stevens, in that I consider poetry to be experimental by nature, and then there’s also a specific aesthetic lineage that we can historicize via the proper noun.

Folks can (& maybe will) argue endlessly about what qualifies as Experimental, esp. if one conflates particular aesthetic ideals / modalities / practices with the beautiful / the valuable / the good. I’m less interested in those sorts of questions, but to each their own 

Indie Theology (she/her)

Oh, yes! Is it poetry if it is not “experimental”?

Twila Newey

Words, man. I don’t mind experimental as a category. There’s a lot of poetry that reads more like formula than experiment to me. But what do I know.

The end of thread.

Other questions I’d love answered:

What is the meaning of conceptual writing? How to write conceptual poetry?

Some cool links

Conceptual Poetry

Conceptual poetry is not just one form of specific writing but the term covers a range of poetry, from visual poetry within the ideas of Concrete poetry to …


24 Mar 2009 — Conceptual writing or uncreative writing is a poetics of the moment, fusing the avant-garde impulses of the last century with the technologies …

Kenneth Goldsmith’s Controversial Conceptual Poetry

https://www.newyorker.com › Magazine › Avant-Garde

5 Oct 2015 — Conceptual poems are the result of their method. A lyric poem might pass through many versions before arriving at its final form; a conceptual …

Conceptual | Poetry Foundation

An umbrella term for writing that ranges from the constraint-based practices of OuLiPo to Concrete poetry’s visual poetics. Nonreferential and interested in the …

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