Manifest: NEXT [a kind of outro] / Jeffrey Robinson

Untitled, Jon Sarkin
Ink on card
Image courtesy Henry Boxer Gallery

Romantic Manifestos Manifest will find its next manifestations as a book and an exhibition. Collected alphabetically, the 100 manifesto statements, my commentaries upon them, and the responses of artists and poets accumulate into a loose but vibrant coherence fed by the freshness of the original (radical, root) Romantic vision.

The radical Romantic manifesto does not require that poetry simply record experience; these manifesto-poems are driven by the conceptual, the theoretical, toward a poetics that’s experimental, exploratory, utopian. To understand and be moved and above all changed by poems, the reader is urged to know what shapes their formation and purpose.

But as the British poet Robert Sheppard puts it: “Poetics does not always, or often, call itself poetics, since it can be mercurial and intermittent and it can appear in a variety of guises, for example, in writers’ letters, reviews, literary criticism, and in their creative work itself.”

Urchins, by Patricia Farrell, 2023

Erica Baum, Edge, from Patterns, 2020

The manifestos appear in three forms: works explicitly devoted to stating, describing, and perhaps arguing, the way a certain feature of poetry works and the purpose of poetry in general; more casual or inadvertent expressions such as those found in letters, notebooks, and journals; and lastly poems themselves. They belong in a book of course, but they also belong on walls, as language art, as a wider gesture.

Romantic manifestos exist in “an interplay, a shifting back & forth between the thing said & the creation of new means by which to say it” (Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris in Poems for the Millennium, Volume Two), “offering a means—linguistic & methodological—to overthrow & rebuild”: the deeply-held conviction by Romantic poets “to subvert (or to capture) the inherited past.” Their poetry and the manifestos that flowered alongside anticipate the wild blooms of the 20th-century avant-garde, and contain seeds of the 21st-century poetic experiment to continue and yet subvert our inheritance. The language artists whose work responds to the Manifestos are also carriers of this continuum, breaking as they make.

We'll publish the complete Romantic Manifestos Manifest as a book in 2024/5, and will exhibit associated works in parallel.