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Andrews, DavidóReview of Contemporary Fiction
Andrews, David. "Review of A Conversation with David Antin." Review of Contemporary Fiction 22.3 (2002): 172.

An e-mail interview that outgrew its original forum (i.e., The Review of Contemporary Fiction), A Conversation with David Antin is an illuminating exploration of the aesthetic philosophy behind David Antin's "talk" poems. Prompted by his distinguished straight man, the poet and critic Charles Bernstein, Antin first limns his early life and poetry. Particularly interesting in this regard are the samples of Antin's early work solicited by Bernstein. Anyone familiar with Antin's seminal Talking (1972) will be impressed by how far this major poet has come—and how ordinary, albeit skillful, his work once was. Most crucially, Antin discusses the Wittgensteinian imperatives that led him away from even the most radical poetry of his day toward "a poetics of talking as a poetics of thinking." For Antin, poetry is a tool. The poet is a pragmatist who innovates not for commercial or avant-garde purposes but because he has "to get something done and there's no tool that will do the job." That said, perhaps the book's greatest delight is the way it immerses its reader in an erudite interplay that, as Antin notes, itself resembles a talk poem. Hence the dialogue is hardly Socratic; it never imparts the sense that either interlocutor is moving the other toward trap or truth. Indeed, much of the book consists of digressions from the main topic. The conversation is interlarded with family anecdotes, memories of the New York art world of the sixties and seventies, samples of Bernstein's poetry, theorization about classical music, dream narratives, etc. This digressive texture is reinforced by "Album Notes," a sequence of Antin-family photographs that follows the interview. I found this section, and Antin's captions, anticlimactic after the excitement of the conversation. Still, if this constitutes a defect, it is a minor one.

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