Co-curated with Convolution, a journal of conceptual criticism, Sought Poems considers the legacy of minimal and found poetry in new work by Natalie Czech, Aram Saroyan, and Jason Simon. The poet K. Silem Mohammad, in a 2005 essay considering then-recent poetic movements that challenged the notion of authorship, writes that the “ sought poem” is extrapolated from the “found poem.”
Whereas the idea behind found poems is that they’re just something you stumble upon and say hey, that’s poetry, I’m thinking of a process of aggressively looking for something, with the intent of enlisting it in some capacity. Sought poems come about as the result of invasive surgeries performed on already-mangled bodies. The poet knows those happy—or unhappy, as the case may be—accidents of language are out there, but it may take repeated sallies into the underbrush before they are flushed out. The sought poem is not passively awaited, but teased, prodded, hectored into existence. The poet thus assumes a level of involvement that in many ways is very old-school: She once again puts her manipulative ego into full gear, and becomes responsible for aggressively intentional structures.
This search into the underbrush often brings the poet—or artist—into an unequal collaboration with known or unknown but often unwitting collaborators, a relationship that becomes especially true in the work of Natalie Czech, who often appropriates the language of poets and machines (as in the case with the photographs presented here), and Jason Simon, whose work for Sought Poems draws both its imagery and language from Jean-Luc Godard’s film Numéro Deux (1975). For this exhibition, Aram Saroyan, the legendary minimalist poet (best known, perhaps, for his controversial “ lighght” poem), has revisited his early photographic work, undertaken when he was the assistant to Richard Avedon in the 1960s and first collected in his book Words & Photographs (1970). Additionally, Convolution and We Have Photoshop have curated a selection of books and ephemera related to minimal poetry, with an emphasis on Saroyan and the poet Robert Grenier (both Saroyan and Grenier have had their poems repurposed by Czech in the past).