Concrete Constructions: Assembling a Postwar Poetics

  • Kurt Beals Washington University in Saint Louis
Keywords: Max Bense, Eugen Gomringer, design, communication, information


This essay focuses on the manifestos and theoretical works of Concrete poets—primarily the German-language poets Max Bense and Eugen Gomringer, as well as the Noigandres group—examining their engagement with discourses of postwar modernity, including internationalism, design, and communication and information theory. While the movement’s programmatic texts at times proved unpersuasive or inconsistent, they nonetheless demonstrated a readiness or even eagerness to cross boundaries—both national and disciplinary—and to seek inspiration from scientific and technical fields in an attempt to articulate a new poetics suited to the modern age. Rather than see the movement’s manifestos and theoretical statements as hubristic promises that its poetry could never keep, this essay proposes that we see the poems and the programmatic texts as two parts of the same project, which claimed a place for poetry in a technologically saturated age.