Books for the News, Literature

RIP David Antin (1932–2016)

Cover image for Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature, 1966 to 2005, by David Antin. Photo by: Phel Steinmetz.

The University of Chicago Press published David Antin’s Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature, 1966 to 2005, in 2011. The book collected Antin’s singular talk pieces and lecture-performances, as well as a variety of critical takes on everything from his art world contemporaries to exhumations of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s minor philosophical asides. It was a big deal to me to get to work on the book and to exchange emails with David, and it’s certainly the only piece of marketing copy for which the work triggered my use of the phrase, “trademark antiformalist panache.” I’ll miss David, and talking with David—it was talking, after all, that was truly his medium, made all the more inimitable by the combination of a ceaseless curiosity and real sense of living in (and writing one’s self into) history. That said, rather than the usual series of formal obits (though you can read them here, and here, and also here), here’s a couple of remembrances from Antin’s friends, Charles Bernstein and Marjorie Perloff, another way of paying tribute to and honoring his conversations.

From Charles Bernstein, at Jacket2:

A great inspiration, radical model, dearest friend, and ever an iconoclast.

David Antin was one of the great American poets of the postwar period, transforming both the practice of poetry and the essay. His ‘talk poems’ are chock full of startlingly philosophical insight, compelling autobiographical turns, and bursts of comic genius. His work is the record of a person thinking out loud, weaving narratives on the fly, and making poems that are as engaging as they are wise.

From Marjorie Perloff, posted on Facebook:

Word has just reached me that David Antin died last night! David had been suffering from Parkinson’s for some years and he evidently took a fall a few days ago and was in the ICU struggling. And now it is over. David was one of my oldest friends; I have known him and Elly for over forty years. He was a unique poet and great original thinker; I also consider him a true mentor: he taught me so many things about the arts. So this is a sad sad day for many of us. But as Blaise, David’s son, just suggested to me, David could say with Wittgenstein, “Tell them I’ve had a wonderful life.”

To read more about Radical Coherency, click here.