I remember Tilla Brading telling me what a good teacher Tony Lopez was, and reading his book of essays, 'Meaning Performance', I'm sure it's true. The first essay in the book, 'Limits of Reference and Abstraction in American Poetry', is an admirably clear, non-techical description of Language Poetry, its rationale, and what it's trying to achieve. I'm sure that if the average, reasonably intelligent person-in-the-street were to read this essay, they'd be able to read Charles Bernstein, Bob Perelman, Lyn Hejinian and all the rest, with no problem at all, and with a great deal of pleasure. It strikes me that an absence of such clear, non-academic explanations of so-called 'difficult' poetry may be what keeps such poetry on the margins.
Lopez identifies Gertrude Stein as a seminal figure, whose influence has increased over the years. In a later essay, he says of Stein's writing, "It is a kind of postmodernism that is not foreseen in the writings of Eliot, Pound or Williams." And on Stein's increasing influence, Lopez says:
"Stein's work has been appropriated by various interest groups because you can make it anything you like. It is abstract writing that resists meaning, so little bits of it can be made to seem full of intention that may be invention. Reading Stein's work as it is is a real and permanent challenge. She hugely expanded the possibilities for writing, and we are nowhere near using them up."