Kent Johnson’s Poetic Architecture: 11 Quizzes

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be looking at Kent Johnson’s Quizzes because Kent brings up some very important issues for the field of Architectural Poetics. Along with cognitive/biological sciences and theories of sound, regular readers may know that theories of architectural space are one of my main theoretical concerns. Kent’s questions are provocative if you are accustomed to thinking of poetic architecture in terms of lines and spaces in a book; and if you are you might find my responses to be provocative because I tend to agree with the sentiment he expresses in the quizzes. Kent adds a nice set of intro questions: Is poetry ever distinct from architecture? Can it exist, in the most material sense, without it? Think of writing practices and their technologies: pens, paper, computers, printing presses, conferences, academic offices, the reading space, and so on. Again: Is poetry ever separate from architecture? One might protest: But architecture is a form of poetry, really, which, if true, would not cancel the possibility that there is an always/already macro-historical conflation of practices. What do you think? I think one may also like to consider Gins and Arakawa’s taunt to poets in their Mechanism of Meaning News (available in the WE HAVE DECIDED NOT TO DIE Guggenheim monograph) that once we are aware of the tactile/kinesthetic procedures and sites inherent in the body’s interaction in the lived environment “poets will jump up and down and learn to see”. Ok. On with the questions: Quiz #1 1) Can a poem have a blueprint? The easy answer to this is yes but a poem does not just have a blueprint, but is a blueprint depending on how one defines poem. Remember Lefebvre’s Representations of Space, essentially the conceptual, planned realm of spatial production? These are our town plans, drawn into grids, seen first on paper. I would argue that different poems have different sorts of blueprints. The sonnet form, for example, could be considered a type of foundational plan for a sonnet. But of course there are always variations in stress, accents etc. There are literally hundreds of variations on the sonnet, just like our prefab cities with their own little themes and variations. A poem’s blueprint is not only in its form, however. A poem, aside from the spontaneous and unrecorded type, is a blueprint of sorts. As I was arguing on Kasey’s blog, the poem as blueprint, as a representation of space so to speak has a different life when read, silently or out loud. In part, we all know that everyone has a different way of reading or interpreting the music of a poem. But what else is going on when we read (not just a poem)? We are in space, presumably a lived space with codes operating on a number of different levels – for shorthand, I’m speaking here of representational spaces and spatial practice in Lefebvre. In part, what I’m arguing is that there is no such thing as a poem itself, but different instances of a poem. {I’m going to let this stand and add to it a little later} 2) Does a door connect the inside and outside? No. A door is complicit in the creation of inside and outside. A door is more like a Cartesian evil deceiver. 3) What kind of door should it be: swinging or sliding? Collapsing. Not an option, I know. 4) Is there plumbing and where does it go? This question doesn’t allow a negative response. {to be continued}

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