Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Jeffrey Pence

Committee Member(s)

DeSales Harrison
Jenn Bryan


Jack Spicer, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, Poetics, Phenomenology


Jack Spicer’s poetry is often a mess of obscenity, convoluted references, and opaque language. It resists any attempts to reduce it to a system of proscriptions or abstract ideas. However, it consistently engages the reader on the level of bodily interaction. In the introduction to Admonitions, Spicer describes his poetry as a “frightening hall of mirrors,” and this grotesque exploration of the body demands a sympathetic awareness in the body of the reader. Further, the obscenity scattered throughout his work evokes a response not only through the attractive/repulsive paradox of any obscenity, but also in that it showcases an orality of his words which co-opts the voice of the reader as participant in the violent language. Even when Spicer is at his most obstinate in refusing interpretation, the frustration in approaching his poetry is another way of forcing the reader to become involved with his poetry physically. Each of these methods leads to a poetics that shifts the site of meaning making from the author/poem complex to the reader/poem relationship. It is in the way that the body responds to the writing that the force of the poetry comes through. This device shows similarities to the more explicit poetics of later L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writers, who, with their postmodern sensibilities, intentionally crafted poems in order to create a more democratic production of meaning: one in which, again, the reader is the agent of meaning production. The connection here leads to a methodology of reading where searching for a locked-away meaning from the poem is set aside, and the reader is free to explore a fruitful, constructive relationship of body with poem.