Eugen Gomringer Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

As the leading theoretician of concrete poetry in Europe, Eugen Gomringer has also published essays, manifestos, and lectures, including the important and provocatively titled Poesie als Mittel der Umweltgestaltung (poetry as a means of shaping the environment). In addition, most of his theoretical texts were reprinted in his best-known collection of poems, Worte sind Schatten. Gomringer has also promoted the school of concrete poetry as an editor of journals and collections. In 1953, he cofounded the journal Spirale and served as the editor of its literary section. In 1960, he founded the Eugen Gomringer Press in Frauenfeld, Switzerland, serving as the editor for eleven issues of the journal Konkrete Poesie/Poesia concreta, which was published in Frauenfeld from 1960 to 1964. Gomringer has always been fascinated by nonrepresentational painters and artists whose “concrete” works he sees as being intimately connected to his own; in 1958, he edited a collection of essays in honor of the fiftieth birthday of sculptor, designer, and abstract painter Max Bill, and in 1968, he published monographs on the works of Josef Albers and Camille Graeser. He also collaborated with artists on books with “concrete” artistic themes.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

In 1953, in Bern, Switzerland, Eugen Gomringer published his first concrete poems, in his newly founded magazine Spirale, earning himself the title “the Father of Concrete Poetry.” Although another group of concrete poets (the “Noigandres” group) had organized in Brazil at about the same time, Gomringer’s first poems appear to have predated those of the Brazilians, and it was Gomringer’s poems and theoretical texts that served as the basis for the spread of this new school in Europe. More important, Gomringer’s linguistic ingenuity showed the German-speaking world that literary innovation and creativity were still possible in the aftermath of the (linguistic) destruction of the Third Reich. He demonstrated that it was perfectly legitimate, and even a matter of great urgency, to question the adequacy of the building blocks of any new literature—namely, the language itself.

Gomringer’s influence was enormous in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The experimental poet Helmut Heissenbüttel has openly admitted his indebtedness to Gomringer; indeed, the whole Stuttgart School of poets who gathered around the aesthetician Max Bense (including Heissenbüttel, Franz Mon, and Claus Bremer) would hardly have been conceivable had it not been for Gomringer’s pioneering work. In Austria, the poets Friedrich Achleitner and Gerhard Rühm, who formed the nucleus of the short-lived but important neo-Dadaistic cabaret Die Wiener Gruppe (the...

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(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Dencker, Klaus Peter. “Visual Poetry, What Is It?” In Translations: Experiments in Reading, edited by Donald Wellman, Cola Franzen, and Irene Turner. Cambridge, Mass.: O.ARS, 1986. A comparison study of pattern poetry and concrete poetry genres, and an analysis of the theories of Gomringer.

Gumpel, Liselotte. “Concrete” Poetry from East and West Germany. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1976. A critical and historical study of experimental poetry in Germany. Includes bibliographic references and an index.

Linnemann, Martina E. “Concrete Poetry: A Post-War Experiment in Visual Poetry.” In Text into Image: Image into Text, edited by Jeff Morrison and Florian Krobb. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi, 1997. A comparative study of the concrete poetry of Gomringer and Claus Bremer.