Never Abolish Chance: The Concrete Poetry Conference at SBU

deadline for submissions: 
January 10, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
St. Bonaventure University
contact email: 

 March 31 & April 1, 2017 | In Honor of Robert Lax


St. Bonaventure University is pleased to announce a new quadrennial conference on Concrete Poetry. The inaugural event will take place Friday, March 31, 2017-Saturday, April 1, 2017 on the university campus in scenic Western New York. The conference invites proposals on any topic related to concrete or visual poetry understood broadly. We especially encourage proposals that address the international or hemispheric traditions, as well as those that offer alternative roadmaps outside the received genealogies. Participants will be welcomed at all levels of faculty and graduate research.  

The inaugural keynote speakers will feature John Beer, Renee Gladman, and Evie Shockley.

 John Beer is the author of The Waste Land and Other Poems (Canarium Books, 2010), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, a chapbook, Lucinda (Spork Press, 2013), and the full-length verse novella of Lucinda, published by Canarium Books in 2016. He is also the editor of a selection of Robert Lax's poems, published by Wave Books in 2013. | Renee Gladman's works of prose include Juice (Kelsey Street Press, 2000), The Activist (Krupskaya, 2003), Newcomer Can't Swim (Kelsey Street Press, 2007), and To After That (Toaf) (Atelos, 2008). Her recent titles include Calamities (Wave Books, 2016), and the Ravicka novels Event Factory (2010), The Ravickians (2011), and Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge (2013). In 2014-2015 she was a fellow at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where she worked on Prose Architectures, an interdisciplinary project exploring the continuum between sentences and drawings. Gladman has taught at several U.S. universities, most extensively as a professor of creative writing at Brown University from 2006-2014. | Evie Shockley is the author of the new black, winner of the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, a half-red sea, and a critical study, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (Iowa University Press, 2011). Her honors include the 2012 Holmes National Poetry Prize, fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and residencies at Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. Shockley is an Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, NJ.  

Proposals | Please submit 250-word abstracts for individual papers or 500-word abstracts for full panels/roundtables to the organizers Kaplan Harris and Lauren Matz at Concrete@sbu.edu. Proposals will be accepted until January 10. Accepted participants will be notified by January 25. The conference website--with additional plenary announcements--will launch in late 2016.

The title of the conference alludes to Stéphane Mallarmé’s A Throw of the Dice [Un Coup de Dés], which celebrates its 120-year anniversary in 2017. The conference is occasioned, however, by the local-born concrete/visual poet Robert Lax, whose papers are owned by the university. Born in Olean, NY, Lax lived most of his life on the Greek island of Patmos. He was published in Mary Ellen Solt's groundbreaking anthology Concrete Poetry: A World View (1968). Toward the end of his life he left a vast collection of unpublished correspondence, notebooks, audio and visual materials, and small press ephemera to St. Bonaventure University. Today St. Bonaventure holds the largest repository of materials by and about Lax to be found anywhere in the world. A special exhibit drawn from the Lax archive will be a central part of the conference in 2017.