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About Allan Revich

Allan Revich is a Toronto artist and writer. His work has appeared in numerous publications, in international exhibitions, and on many websites. He is active in the international Fluxus community. He currently writes poetry, creates visual poems, and works with photography. His work includes Web-based art, mixed media art, and mail art. His books, Headline Haiku 2006, Headline Haiku 2007, and Fluxus Vision are available internationally on Amazon.com and its affiliates, as his most recent collection of poems, "Flux You!".

What do mesostic poems have to do with Fluxus?

Fluxus is about "intermedia". Intermedia is a term used to describe the spaces between media and the places where different media intersect.

Mesostic poems were a favourite form of the composer, John Cage. Cage was a seminal early influence on the Fluxus movement. He saw his mesostic poems as being musical compositions with words and letters being the notes. Like music. he "composed" his mesostic poems so that they could be heard as well as seen.

Many contemporary Fluxus artists also compose mesostic poems. Poetry, especially concrete and visual poetry have been and continue to be important aspects of the Fluxus oeuvre.

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Here is one of my mesostics which is also written as a fibonacci:

Look at the capitalized letters.

Fab Fib w/Mesostic Rectum

heRos
plEasure
seConal pills
veTeran soldiers felled
reUniting with the fallen graves
laMbs slaughtered in a single sentence of doubt

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What's a Fibonacci?

Ask Google Here

A mesostic poem is a form of inclusion poetry, or acrostic poem in which the "hidden" or included word, phrase, or name is seen vertically in a central spine instead of at the beginning or end (or both for a "double acrostic") of each line. The form was popularized (if such a thing is possible with such esoteric poetry) by John Cage, who used the term to describe a particular form of inclusion poetry that had compositional rules beyond simply holding the inclusion word or phrase down a central spine. Since the term was first used to by Cage to describe his particular type of meso-acrostic, there is some debate in literary and artistic circles about what can be properly called a "mesostic".

My own opinion is that the term can rightly be applied to any acrostic-type text composition in which the inclusion runs down the spine as opposed to the edge. This opinion is based on the perception that Cage was writing a particular type of specialized mesosic and not the only type of mesostic, even though the term was used mostly to describe his particular central acrostics.

Cage said that, "Like acrostics, mesostics are written in the conventional way horizontally, but at the same time they follow a vertical rule, down the middle not down the edge as in an acrostic, a string spells a word or name, not necessarily connected with what is being written, though it may be. This vertical rule is lettristic and in my practice the letters are capitalized. Between two capitals in a perfect or 100% mesostic neither letter may appear in lower case. .... In the writing of the wing words, the horizontal text, the letters of the vertical string help me out of sentimentality. I have something to do, a puzzle to solve."

From what I have been able to glean hither thither and yonder in Netland there are with three variations of the acrostic form which are called "mesostic".

I'll begin with the two forms for which Cage and writers/artists/poets following his lead seem to be in total agreement:

1) The 50% Mesostic (A given letter capitalized does not occur between it and the preceding capitalized letter)

2) The 100% Mesostic (A given letter capitalized does not occur between it and the preceding or following capitalized letter)

3) The basic form (possibly the original form - but not for Cage) is the one on which there seems (at least to me) to be some ambiguity and some room for interpretation.

This might be termed the proto-mesostic, early mesostic, quasi-mesostic or neo-mesostic, depending on where one places it conceptually or chronologically. In one article (see the references below) about Cage and his acrostics/mesostics the basic form was accepted by Cage as adequate to be described as a mesostic. In this article Cage showed a colleague some "acrostic" poems that he had written in which the acrostic word/phrase was arranged vertically down a central spine rather than 'bookending' each line at the beginning or end (or both as in a double-acrostic). Cage termed these poems as 'mesostics', describing an acrostic form with the the phrase in the middle (hence 'meso'). He later went on to refine and redefine the form into the 50% and 100% mesostic.

So the issue is, if only the two forms used by cage can properly be termed "mesostic", what does one call the "ordinary mesostic"? It is not a typical acrostic. It is not 50% mesostic, nor is it a 100% mesostic. I remain wont to call it a mesostic as that term seems well-suited to describe an acrostic poem with the phrase down the middle.

From Perloff's article (referenced below) it seems that Cage may not have written "0% mesostics" or meso-acrostics himself. But the same article (same paragraph) does suggest that the term "mesostic" may still apply to meso-acrostic poems that do not conform to Cage's mesostic rules, since it may have been Norman Brown and not Cage who coined the term.

"My first mesostic," Cage writes in the Foreword to M, "was written as prose to celebrate one of Edwin Denby's birthdays. The following ones, each letter of the name being on its own line, were written as poetry. A given letter capitalized does not occur between it and the preceding capitalized letter. I thought I was writing acrostics, but Norman O. Brown pointed out that they could properly be called 'mesostics' (row not down the edge but down the middle)" (M 1).

Reference Sites:

http://mesostic.com/

http://www.euph0r1a.net/mesostomatic/what.html

Create your own instand mesostic at:
http://www.euph0r1a.net/mesostomatic/

http://www.euph0r1a.net/ (website of Matthew McCabe, a Florida PhD student and composer/geek) he lists the following in his bibliography (http://www.euph0r1a.net/mesostomatic/biblio.html):

John Cage Computer Programs
(Andrew Culver, author. Date of authorship unknown. Accessed May 21, 2006).
Available at: http://anarchicharmony.org/People/Culver/CagePrograms.html

The Music of Verbal Space: John Cage's "What You Say"
(Marjorie Perloff, author. Date of authorship unknown. Accessed November 18, 2003).
Available at: http://www.ubu.com/papers/perloff02.html

Cage Quotes:
http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/cage-quotes.html

Marjorie Perloff
http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/perloff/

being a poet is very easy work
most of the time
you can do nothing at all
sometimes
when you feel inspired
you write things down

being a poet does not pay very well
being a poet pays next to nothing
being a poet often pays nothing at all

© Allan Revich 2006

Her Mom: A Found Poem

She’d spent most of her time in factories
or in kitchens, stocking shelves
or making beds in hotels
She’d never had health insurance
Her $11,000 a year paycheck was too much
for Medicaid
so she had to quit her job
apply for disability
and pay the first hospital bills with her savings
F--k, I’m so sick of this country.

http://ajaxproductions.blogspot.com

The following URLs link to various articles about anti-art. Some dispute the opinion that I offer in my previous posting.

Making art out of anti-art by Travis Hugh Culley

(a very well written article)

Anti-Art Is Not Art by Michelle Marder Kamhi

The "stuckist" argument against anti-art

(The "stuckists" are an interesting phenomenom of their own - a bit too proud of being stupid)

Dictionary definition from ArtLex

Create your own anti-art

What is anti-art anyway? Can anti-art even exist? Isn't anti-art still art?

These are all good questions. Anti-art is obviously still art. It exists within the cultural context of the art world and it cannot exist without art. Before one is tempted to be smugly dismissive of the anti-art movement though, one needs to consider that just as anti-art exists within the world of art - art cannot exist within the broader context of culture without its own opposite - which is anti-art. So, anti-art must exist, even it it is a part of the art world. This is akin to the idea that post-modernism requires modernism to exist or there would be nothing for it to be "post".

OK, so in a nutshell, anti-art is still art but anti-art does exist. So what is anti-art anyway? I like to think of anti-art not so much as being "against" art, but as being more of an "antidote" to the dominant culture of art. Anti-art is art at the margins. It is art that exists independently of the dominant commerce driven art world. It exists even independently of the dominant so-called anti-art of the academic world (even if many artists involved with anti-art are a part of that world). Anti-art is art that exists and is created purely at the desire of the artist, for the edification of the creator. It does not depend on approval from anybody else. It doesn't even require the approval of other anti-artists. This does not mean that communities of like-minded creators cannot exist. Artists or anti-artists, or anti-art artists are still human - are still social beings. Why should they be excluded from broader communities?

On April 3rd of this year (2006) the members of Fluxlist established a collaborative community Blog. Incredibly, in less than two weeks the Fluxlist Blog has 36 members and has agathered more than 120 posts. All of these posts incorporate the Fluxus spirit of intermedia and collaboration. I recomend a visit by anybody interested in the new directions that Fluxus is taking while still maintaining the heart and soul of the original Fluxus movement.

[[image:fluxing-ffz.jpg::center:0]]

http://fluxlist.blogspot.com/
Be sure to click on the "Archives" at lower right.
It is a busy blog with much to experience!

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