Radical Language

Encounter with Susan Bee, Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman

Friday, 25 October 2019 - 6:30pm
Free, with prior ticket collection from the Museo Ticket Offices and on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 21 October
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200
Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía and Seminario Euraca
Susan Bee, Pow!, Oil, enamel and sand on canvas, 76 x 61 cm, 2014. Courtesy of the artist
Susan Bee, Pow!, Oil, enamel and sand on canvas, 76 x 61 cm, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

This encounter, organised by the Museo Reina Sofía, welcomes poets Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman and artist Susan Bee, all with close ties to the Language poetry movement, to perform readings and present their past and present work, as well as engage in conversation with the attending audience. This encounter wraps up the study programme centred on their work and organised by Seminario Euraca, a research collective that works with the tongues and languages of the present crisis.      

Charles Bernstein (1950) and Ron Silliman (1946), pioneering and prolific poets, have both played a pivotal role in the trajectory of American poetry from the mid-1960s – when the Language poetry movement surfaced — to the present day. Artist Susan Bee (1952), in addition to designing the poetry magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, published in New York from 1978 to 1981, co-edited, with Mira Schor, M/E/A/N/I/N/G from 1986 to 1996, and continued to publish this feminist visual arts magazine online until 2016. Bee’s paintings lay stress on the margin and on issues that form the backbone of this margin: women, sexuality, racialisation, trauma, pain, happiness, and so on. Across her career her work has resisted many “deaths of painting” and, through figuration, explores themes that are still current.

The difficulties of characterising the writing of Language are connected to the blurred nature of the movement at its root; its nerve centre was located on both US coasts, with a Canadian connection in Toronto. The movement was less a poetic avant-garde stance upheld by a small group of artists and more a broad front of poets that came to number in excess of one hundred. Some saw in this movement an insurgency which challenged the logical and narrative discursiveness of the dominant model of poetry. Others saw an investigation – in the very act of composing a poem — of the linguistic root of the subject, or a reinvention of the author-reader relationship. Yet as a whole they acknowledged the start of a debate around historical, theoretical, practical and formal questions facing poetry in the last thirty years of the 20th century. The visit of these three poets/activists/artists is particularly relevant in view of the critical phase of visible metamorphosis Spanish poetry is currently undergoing.   

For the reading in the Museo, the poems of Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman will be translated into Spanish, expressly for the occasion, by Pujals Gesalí and Elia Maqueda, in addition to some of Enrique Winter’s translations of Bernstein’s poems collected in the book Blanco inmóvil (2014) and translations of Language poets by Esteban Pujals in La lengua radical (1992), a publication that lends the eleventh Seminario Euraca study programme its name. Over the course of the study programme sessions, held on 23 and 24 October at La Ingobernable in Madrid, the second edition of the magazine L/E/N/G/U/A/J/E/o, edited by Seminario Euraca, will be issued.