Barrett Watten

Barrett Watten

Barrett James Watten (born October 3, 1948) is an American poet, editor, and educator often associated with the Language poets.

Since 1994, Watten has taught modernism and cultural studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. Other areas of research include postmodern culture and American literature; poetics; literary and cultural theory; visual studies; the avant-garde and digital literature. He is married to the poet Carla Harryman.


Born in Long Beach, California, where he graduated from high school, Watten attended MIT and then UC Berkeley, where he took an AB in Biochemistry in 1969. It was there he met poets Robert Grenier and Ron Silliman and studied with Josephine Miles, who recommended him to the Iowa Writers' Workshop where he received an MFA in English (Program of Creative Writing) in 1972. While at Iowa, Watten self-published and printed his first collection "Radio Day in Soma City" (1971) in a letterpress volume, unpaginated (25pp. approx.) in an edition of 75 copies.

Watten later returned to the Bay Area and began to form relations with some experimental writers who would become known as the Language School. This 'school' was not a group precisely, but a "tendency" in the work of many of its so-called practitioners (see article on Language poets). Thus, Barrett Watten is one of the founding poets and editors of the Language School of poetry and one of its central theorists, editing "This" and "Poetics Journal" (with Lyn Hejinian) two of the crucial vehicles and networks for the dissemination of Language Poetry.


Watten edited "This", one of the central little magazines of the "Language" movement, and co-edited Poetics Journal, one of its theoretical venues. In 1986, he returned to UC Berkeley, earning his PhD in English in 1996. His published work includes "Bad History" (1998) and "Frame (1971-1990)" which appeared in 1997. "Frame" brings together six previously published works of poetry from two decades: "Opera—Works" ; "Decay" ; "1–10" ; "Plasma/Paralleles/"X" ; "Complete Thought" and "Conduit" – along with two previously uncollected texts – "City Fields" and "Frame". Two of his books – "Progress" (1985) and "Under Erasure" (1991) – were republished with a new preface, as "Progress" | "Under Erasure" (2004).

Watten is co-author, with Michael Davidson, Lyn Hejinian, and Ron Silliman, of "Leningrad: American Writers in the Soviet Union" (1991) . He has published two volumes of literary and cultural criticism, "Total Syntax" (1985) and "The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics" (2003) which was awarded the René Wellek Prize in 2004. [ [ Holloway Reading Series] at UC Berkeley; site provide info on Watten who read there] Watten earned his Phd at the University of California at Berkeley in 1995. His dissertation was entitled: "Horizon Shift: Progress and Negativity in American Modernism".

In late 2006 saw the publication of the first volume of "The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography." (Detroit, MI: Mode A/This Press, 2006) [ For additional details, commentary, and links see Barrett Watten's piece [ How "The Grand Piano" Is Being Written] ] . This work is described [in a publicity release at Watten's homepage (see "External links" above)] as "an ongoing experiment in collective autobiography by ten writers identified with Language poetry in San Francisco. The project will consist of 10 volumes in all". [ Along with Watten, the other nine writers are: Bob Perelman, Ron Silliman, Steve Benson, Carla Harryman, Tom Mandel, Kit Robinson, Lyn Hejinian, Rae Armantrout, and Ted Pearson.This book further describes itself as follows: "It takes its name from a coffeehouse at 1607 Haight Street, where from 1976-79 the authors took part in a reading and performance series. The writing project, begun in 1998, was undertaken as an online collaboration, first via an interactive web site and later through a listserv.] In 2007, Martin Richet translated into French "Plasma / Parallèles / «X»", a volume that joins together three long poems which originally appeared in a chapbook by Tuumba Press in 1979 [ [ Le Quartanier éditeur & revue] ] .

External links

* [ Barrett Watten Homepage]
* [ article on Watten at "Jacket Magazine"]
* ["Detroit looks" (8/6/2003)] George Tysh, arts editor of "Metro Times" (Detroit), briefly discusses "The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics"
* [ "Question of Interpretation"] an interactive piece at "mark(s)", an online quarterly [ In this piece, Watten employs or figures poetry as epigram or analog to hyper-contextualize and cross-cut the literature of the Rorschach. An example of digital poetics as it delves, perhap by way of cathexis, into what Watten refers to as "New Meaning"] .
* [ Barrett Watten and Amiri Baraka : Smackdown!] [This showdown (or debate) between Baraka & Watten is legendary in poetry circles. Here is the report by Kristin Prevallet — of the "fight" which occurred at "The Opening of the Field: A Conference on North American Poetry in the 1960s" (June 28-July 2, 2000), in Orono, Maine.]
* [ "Total Syntax: The Work in the World"] an essay by Watten focusing on the work of Clark Coolidge [This on-line text excerpted from "Artifice and Indeterminacy: An Anthology of New Poetics" (1998), and as originally published in Watten's book "Total Syntax" (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985)]
* [ "Barrett Watten's "Bad History": A Counter-Epic of the Gulf War"] extended piece by Philip Metres on Watten's "Bad History"
* [ Barrett Watten & Carl Sandburg's "Buttons"]
* [ Ron Silliman on Watten's formative influences] Silliman discusses "15 or 16 works in twelve different categories that proved “most formative” for Watten". Silliman discussed this over two consecutive days (for the follow-up posting [ link here] )
* [ The Grand Piano] website devoted to the 10 volumes of "Collective Autobiography" by 10 of the so-called "West Coast" group of Language poets, including Watten, which began serial publication in November 2006.
* [ Self-Consuming Artifacts … towards an unquiet metaphysics] A blog posting by American poet Aaron McCollough on Barrett Watten & textsound, initiated by the 2008 crisis in "Tibet" (& "Tibet" being the title of a Watten poem)


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Watten — may mean or refer to:* Watten, Highland, a village in Caithness, in the Highland local government area of Scotland * Watten, Nord, a commune in the Nord département of France * Barrett Watten, American poet connected to the Language poetsee… …   Wikipedia

  • Language poets — The Language poets (or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, after the magazine that bears that name) are an avant garde group or tendency in United States poetry that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In developing their poetics, members of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Ron Silliman — (born August 5,1946 in Pasco, Washington) is a contemporary American poet. He has written and edited 26 books to date. Between 1979 2004, Silliman wrote a single poem, entitled The Alphabet. He has now begun writing a new poem entitled Universe,… …   Wikipedia

  • This (magazine) — infobox Book | name = title orig = translator = image caption= Prose Poetry Issue author = Barrett Watten (editor) cover artist = country = United States language = English series = genre = Poetry Prose publisher = This Press release date = San… …   Wikipedia

  • Lyn Hejinian — (born May 17, 1941) is a United States poet, essayist, translator and publisher. She is often associated with the Language poets and is well known for her landmark collection My Life (Sun Moon, 1987, original version Burning Deck, 1980), as well… …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Grenier (poet) — Infobox Writer name = Robert Grenier caption = Robert Grenier speaking at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Los Angeles. pseudonym = birthname = birthdate = Birth date and age|1941|08|04 birthplace = deathdate = deathplace = occupation =… …   Wikipedia

  • List of poets — This is a list of poets. It lists notable poets. Alphabetical listcompactTOC NOTOC A Ab Ak*Dannie Abse (born 1923), English poet *Milton Acorn (1923 ndash;1986), Canadian poet, writer, and playwright *Léonie Adams (1899 ndash;1988), American poet …   Wikipedia

  • Nathaniel Mackey — Nathaniel Mackey, photo by Gloria Graham during the video taping of Add Verse, 2005 Nathaniel Mackey is an American poet, novelist, anthologist, literary critic, editor and Professor of Literature at UC Santa Cruz. Mackey is a Chancellor of The… …   Wikipedia

  • List of English language poets — Poets who wrote or write much of their poetry in the English language.This is a list of English language poets. People on this list should have articles of their own, and should meet the for their poetry. Please place names on the list only if… …   Wikipedia

  • Buchenwald concentration camp — Buchenwald redirects here. For other uses, see Buchenwald (disambiguation). Coordinates: 51°01′20″N 11°14′53″E / 51.02222°N 11.24806°E …   Wikipedia