Innovative Poetries – Department of American Literature, University of Łódź, September 29-30 2016
Beginning with the modernist aesthetic revolution, poetry has continuously shown a stubborn resolve to respond to social, political and cultural shifts and crises with technical innovation. Such innovativeness speaks of the resilience of poetry, as genre, as it refuses to succumb to various announcements of its death or cultural irrelevance. The historical lineage of these responses is an impressive inventory of technical innovation in itself. While the New York School poets reacted to the monumental edifices of their modernist predecessors, their own performative-surrealist modes or varieties of “personism” were later replaced by the Language poets’ insistence on the dissolution of personal expressivity, while both the Language and New York School poets have been seen as responding to the technically moderate “scenic mode” of the 1970’s.
But these innovations have already had their continuations and further reverberations. As various prominent commentators suggest, poetry written in English, now also resounding beyond the Anglophone scope, has continued to respond to social and cultural crises and turmoils with technical innovation. Michael Davidson has argued that the “negative capability” of the contemporary poet, now resolving more around social crises than “personal uncertainty,” has given us poems of increased “interruption” and deliberate “illegibility,” as poets seek to make the genre responsive to the crises of global migrations, economic meltdown, ecological degradation, and fluctuations in our understanding of gender and labor. From a slightly different viewpoint, reinforcing Charles Bernstein’s advocacy of poetic artifice as resistance to dominant poetic “verse cultures,” Marjorie Perloff has defended the cause of technical poetic innovation and practicing poetry “by other means,” proposing an aesthetic platform which, while it calls for a rethinking of the notion of individual originality, also delivers a staunch defense of the capacity of poets and their practice to keep the genre afresh by technical and formal innovation.
These critics’ favoring of the poetry of citationality and cultural material appropriation has found support through various archival projects. One of them is the recently published 2014 Poetics Journal Digital Archive, preceded by a 2013 co-publication, A Guide to Poetics Journal: Writing in the Expanded Field, 1982-1998. Edited by Lyn Hejinian and Barrett Watten, both volumes document critical developments, taking into account an impressively broad range of aesthetic perspectives. Meant as a resource for research, collaborations, and interventions, rather than a definitive collection of criticism, the archive offers an encouragement to view poetry and poetics as “an expanded field” of both theory and poetic practice. Poetic tradition does not take center stage in this project; instead, it privileges the realm of the avant-garde with its many theoretical and aesthetic debates. For the editors,
[p]oetics is a site for reflection on the making of the work that extends its construction into the fields of meaning in which it has its effects. Such fields of meaning are manifold, from the readers’ responses to historical contexts, social motivations, relations to other arts, and philosophical concerns, finally entailing something like a cunning of poetics: the manner in which the work of art extends its principle of construction, the way it makes meaning, through the contexts it draws from, finally, to transform them.
The challenge posed by this archival initiative may serve to sum up the thrust of what we are proposing to explore in this thematically focused conference. We invite scholars to present their views and stance on the technical innovation in the poetry written in English, as it continues to respond to crises of various kinds – social, economic, cultural, globalized – remaining a vitally flexible genre, able to shape insightful perspectives on the human situation.
Further information available here: http://www.innovativepoetries.uni.lodz.pl/