Alfred Korzybski, founder of general semantics, wrote that, "poetry often conveys in a few sentences more of lasting values than a whole volume of scientific analysis" (Science and Sanity, p. 437). He understood that poetic language provides us with a set of tools for understanding, evaluating, and relating to our environment in ways that are different from and complementary to scientific language. Not surprisingly, then, since the start of its publication 75 years ago, the general semantics journal ETC has often featured poetry along with articles on language, perception, communication, and consciousness of abstracting.
On September 28, 2016, the New York Society for General Semantics held its first Language of Poetry session, and we were happy to host our second such program on April 4th, 2018. The program was moderated by Teresa Manzella, a member of the Board of Directors of the NYSGS.
The original readings were prefaced by an Introduction by NYSGS President Lance Strate:
The introduction was followed by a performance by Martin H. Levinson, a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle, PEN, and the book review editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics. He has published nine books and numerous articles and poems. His latest work, a book of poems titled Signal Reactions , is due to be published later this year. He is the president of the Institute of General Semantics and Treasurer of the New York Society for General Semantics.
The performances continued with a reading by Patricia Carragon, an active member of the online poetry group brevitas, the PEN Women’s Literary Workshop, Women Writers in Bloom, and the creative writing workshop Tamarind, and an executive editor for Home Planet News Online. Her latest books are The Cupcake Chronicles (Poets Wear Prada, 2017) and Innocence (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Patricia hosts the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology.
Next was Lance Strate, President of the New York Society for General Semantics, a Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics, editor of Explorations in Media Ecology, a founder and past president of the Media Ecology Association, and Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. His book of poetry, Thunder at Darwin Station, was published by NeoPoiesis Press, as was the anthology of poetry and creative work he co-edited with Adeena Karasick, The Medium is the Muse: Channeling Marshall McLuhan. He is the co-editor of several scholarly anthologies, including Korzybski And..., and Taking Up McLuhan's Cause: Perspectives on Media and Formal Causality, and the author of Echoes and Reflections: On Media Ecology as a Field of Study; On the Binding Biases of Time and Other Essay on General Semantics and Media Ecology; Amazing Ourselves to Death: Neil Postman's Brave New World Revisited; and Media Ecology: An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition.
And the evening was capped of by performance poet Adeena Karasick, a New York based Canadian poet, performer, cultural theorist and media artist and the author of eight books of poetry and poetics. Her Kabbalistically inflected, urban, Jewish feminist mashups have been described as “electricity in language” (Nicole Brossard), “proto-ecstatic jet-propulsive word torsion” (George Quasha), noted for their “cross-fertilization of punning and knowing, theatre and theory” (Charles Bernstein) "a twined virtuosity of mind and ear which leaves the reader deliciously lost in Karasick's signature ‘syllabic labyrinth’” (Craig Dworkin); “one long dithyramb of desire, a seven-veiled dance of seduction that celebrates the tangles, convolutions, and ecstacies of unbridled sexuality… demonstrating how desire flows through language, an unstoppable flood of allusion (both literary and pop-cultural), word-play, and extravagant and outrageous sound-work.” (Mark Scroggins). Most recently is Checking In (Talonbooks, forthcoming, 2018) and Salomé: Woman of Valor (University of Padova Press, Italy, 2017), the libretto for her Spoken Word opera co-created with Grammy award winning composer, Sir Frank London. She teaches Literature and Critical Theory for the Humanities and Media Studies Dept. at Pratt Institute, is a 2017 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Award recipient and winner of the 2016 Voce Donna Italia award for her contributions to feminist thinking. The “Adeena Karasick Archive” has been established at Special Collections, Simon Fraser University.
It was a delightful and exhilarating evening of poetic performance and discussion!