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Enzo Minarelli
Seen by Larry Wendt

Enzo Minarelli has been a tireless proselytizer, publisher, and practitioner of sound poetry for quite some time now. A way of working often marked by balkanized obscurity and cultural provincialism, Minarelli has cut a wide swath across the prolific terrain of sound poetry to expose the universality which the art form is predicated upon. Specifically in his role as a publisher of audio recordings, he has followed the traditions of other international sound poetry anthologies, while avoiding their eccentricity towards a purely Western European or North American focus. His series of 3ViTre record anthologies beginning in 1983 as well as his continuation of the Baobab series (begun in 1977 by the legendary Adriano Spatola) of sound poetry recordings has presented the works of artists from around the world, many of whom had never reached another forum outside of their local or isolated venues.

In many ways, Minarelli has assumed the role of a cultural anthropologist who has followed and documented the transitory expressions of an art in its myriad realizations. Forever vigilant about the changes between last-year's innovation to this year's cliches, he has walked a careful line through the technologically inspired versions of sound poetry, which he has recognized as its only true manifestation and which distinguishes it from its often miss-identified earlier cousin - phonetic poetry. Minarelli does not falter between sound without significance nor significance without sound, and has coined the term polypoetry to define the particular way of working in sound poetry which he is willing to support. Propelled by the same changes in technology which have become the protagonist of our contemporary era, polypoetry makes use of all forms of informational media in its manifestation of the poetic event.

Since its origins, sound poetry has always been in the state of becoming. It exists in that region where all other language-based art forms (are there any other kinds now?) are moving towards - that area where language shares the purity of a physical phenomena. Conversely, the expression of sound poetry seeks to manifest itself in expressions similar to all other art forms. Since by definition, sound poetry is largely dependent upon this degree by which it stresses language as a physical act (whether it be as actes de parole or semiology), there has been since its inception a reinforcement of technique along with the resultant denigration of other dimensional parameters for the art. Minarelli has been particularly critical of developments in the early seventies, were the aesthetics of vocalization were stressed in sound poetry over that of the exploration of new meanings.

Often these questions of aesthetics degenerated into one of ethics, further removing developments from matters at hand while pitting the "all-natural" athleticism of unaided vocal gymnastics against the Faustian promises of electro-acoustics and digital processing. That the ideal of technique is often attenuated or explained away in sound poetry by the often overused apologies of bricollege, vocal ineptness, poor equipment, lack of money, etc. reveals jaded and dulled tastes honed by the overly-slick production values of pop music and the Hollywood blockbuster. Indeed, one can often be charmed by naive or brutal approaches to sound poetry technique, however it is much more appealing when the artist is treating what has become accepted as absolute in a whimsical and ironic fashion -- as another kind of dimensional counterpoint. Such approaches open the art up to a never ending exploration of resonances.

Minarelli has reminded us from his anthologies, his writings, and his own works, that the success of sound poetry not only relies upon the mastery of technique but also it is a function of many other elements such as composition, theoretical underpinnings, attention to performability, etc. Certainly, any one of these dimensions could overrule the others as well as be lip synced to as a monotheistic absolute ideal. However, these directions are also the fossilized residue of previous approaches to artistic creativity according to Minarelli's way of thinking. In the end, as Minarelli so aptly declares about his own formulations for polypoetry, this is a poetry where "the word must be able to free its own manifold sonorities."

Larry Wendt
San Jose State University

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