David Antin, UC San Diego professor known for ‘talk poems,’ dies at 84


David Antin, a poet and performance artist known for his so-called talk poems, died Tuesday in San Diego at age 84, according to family members.

Antin, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, died after a fall at home.

“David Antin was one of the greatest creative and critical voices of his generation,” Michael Govan, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s chief executive and director, said by email. “It was thrilling to have him as one of my graduate school advisors at [UC San Diego]. His arrangement of words in every conversation was like a sculpture of language and content.”


Identified by the Poetry Foundation as part of “a group of artists and poets who brought new definitions and ambitions to poetry in the early 1970s,” Antin won acclaim for his signature “hybrid of criticism, poetry and storytelling that involved Antin discoursing freely on a subject in front of an audience,” as the foundation described his talk poetry.

Artforum pointed to “Talking” from 1972, “Talking at the Boundaries” from 1976 and “What It Means to Be Avant-Garde” from 1993 as some of his best-known works.

Antin was born in New York in 1932 and studied linguistics as a graduate student at New York University, where he specialized in the “language structure” of Gertrude Stein, according to UC San Diego, where Antin was professor emeritus.

He joined the faculty in San Diego in 1968 and and began teaching full-time in 1972. He also directed the university’s Mandeville Art Gallery for four years. His published works include “I Never Knew What Time It Was” and “Radical Coherency.”

Antin is survived by his wife of 55 years, the artist Eleanor Antin; son Blaise and daughter-in-law Cindy; and grandchildren Zachary and Natalie.

Twitter: @mikaelwood



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