David Antin’s Radical Coherency

David Antin at Judson Memorial Church, New York, March 1967. Photo: Peter Moore/VAGA.

Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature, 1966 to 2005_, by David Antin. University of Chicago Press, 2011. 384 pages. $25.

DAVID ANTIN IS most often ID’d as a poet, though usually with some qualification: “Poet-cum–performance artist” gives a better idea of what he does, but “poet-cum–performance artist–cum–stand-up philosopher” is better still. In other words, he’s sui generis, the man who reinvented oral composition for the postmodern world, and in a manner that would probably make Milman Parry turn in his grave. Although Antin is now seldom referred to as a critic, he took a prominent part in the artistic debates of the mid-1960s through the ’70s (and has continued to contribute to the field more occasionally since) and has written literary essays of ambitious scope.

One of the charms of Antin’s autobiographical introduction to his new collection of criticism is

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