North American Poetry 2000-2020: Poetics, Aesthetics, Politics
Institut Universitaire de France
Ministère de l’enseignement supérieur, de la recherche et de l’innovation
25 rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève
15, 16, 17 October 2020
Organized by Vincent Broqua (Université Paris 8 - TransCrit), Olivier Brossard (Université Gustave Eiffel - LISAA / Institut Universitaire de France), Abigail Lang (Université de Paris - LARCA UMR8225)
In his groundbreaking anthology, The New American Poetry (1960), Donald Allen grouped the poets in five sections: those “closely identified with the two important magazines of the period, Originand Black Mountain Review,” the San Francisco Renaissance, The Beat Generation, and the New York Poets (xii-xiii). Allen’s fifth and last section, undefined, gathered poets as different as Philip Whalen, Gary Snyder, Gilbert Sorrentino, Michael McClure, LeRoi Jones, and John Wieners, amongst others: “The fifth group has no geographical definition; it includes younger poets who have been associated with and in some cases influenced by the leading writers of the preceding groups …” (xiii).
In 1994, choosing Allen’s anthology as a model, Douglas Messerli published From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Poetry 1960-1990 (Sun and Moon) with the ambition of creating a volume that would “serve […] [his] own generation—or even the earlier generation of poets … ” (31). Borrowing Allen’s method of grouping poets into sections, Douglas Messerli did not label or identify his, insisting on the porosity of the constituted groups and on the fluidity of exchanges between them: “… these gatherings do not fix a static terrain, but rather are editorial contexts into and out of which the poets can be seen to shift, move, and wander.” (33) Douglas Messerli was thus already acknowledging that the poetic field of the early 1990s was simultaneously expanding and dissolving, making comprehensive readings or "representative" anthologies increasingly difficult to establish—if they, indeed, had ever been possible.
From 1960 to 2000 many poetic groups and movements followed each other or coexisted (whether associated with a place, such as the Poetry Project in New York, with a publishing house or a literary journal, such as the journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E , or with academic or cultural institutions such as The Buffalo Poetics Program, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa, or City Lights Bookstore, amongst others); in contrast, the poetry scene of the early 21st century seems radically different. Whereas in 1960, Allen had one unidentified group and four geographically and poetically-determined groups, and in 1994, Douglas Messerli could organize his anthology around fluid groups who focused on common issues, it seems difficult, in 2020, to identify coherent ensembles. For early 21st century movements, such as Flarf and Conceptual Poetry, how many unidentified groups would today’s anthologizers have to create for a volume spanning the last twenty or thirty years? Should we consider the advent of social media as, paradoxically, contributing to the reconfiguration of groups, movements, and communities?
What has been happening on the US poetry scene over the past twenty years? According to what criteria and principles can the field of US poetry be read today? In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the scene was structured and defined by poetic, aesthetic, and political tensions: is this still the case today? Or should it be approached differently, by coming up with new categories? How is poetry as a genre defined today, and particularly in relation to other genres, and other forms of art? How have the internet and digitization changed the production and distribution of poetry? Who or what authorities legitimize poetry? What relationships do poets develop with institutions? With academia? How is poetry taught? How does poetry redefine the uses of language? How does it incorporate languages other than English? How important is translation on the poetry scene today? What privileged connections are being established between the poetry of the United States and the poetries of other countries? Are the local, regional poetry scenes as active as in the 1960s? Or do poets tend to associate on a larger scale based on professed identities? What are the sociological specificities of US poetry today? What are the preferred forms for poetics and the critique of poetry? What forms does formal exploration assume?
The ambition of this conference is to explore the field of contemporary poetry in North America over the past twenty years and thus to identify the relevant notions and concepts that will allow us to accurately map its current configurations. By North American poetry, we mean the poetry of—and published in—the United States, as well as the English-language poetry of Canada whose poets are in dialogue with US poets. We welcome submissions that will question and recontextualize the term ‘North American’. We are particularly interested in groups, poets, and works that stem from the modernist and experimental traditions mentioned above even as they may question and overturn this legacy. We invite submissions focusing on poems and poetics, groups and distribution networks, the geography and sociology of North American poetry, so as to draw a map of the poetry of the past twenty years.
Proposals for papers should include a brief abstract (300 words) and a short biographical note, and be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 10, 2020.