CFP: [American] Talking Back in Contemporary American Poetry (NEMLA; 2/26-3/1/09)

full name / name of organization: 
Jen Riley
contact email: 

Talking Back in Contemporary American Poetry

In her 1949 work The Life of Poetry, Muriel Rukeyser writes: “Poetry
depends on the moving relations within itself. It is an art that lives in
time, expressing and evolving the moving relation between the individual
consciousness and the world. The work that a poem does is a transfer of
human energy, and I think human energy may be defined as consciousness,
the capacity to make change in existing conditions” (xi). In Line Break:
Poetry as Social Practice, over 40 years later, James Scully writes:
Dissident poetry . . . does not respect boundaries between private and
public, self and other. In breaking boundaries it breaks silences;
speaking for, or at best with, the silenced; opening poetry up, putting it
in the middle of life rather than shunting it off into a corner. It is a
poetry that talks back, that would act as part of the world, not simply as
a mirror of it” (4).

This panel will provide an opportunity for us to consider the ways in
which contemporary American poetry “talks back” to the world. Of
particular interest is that ways that contemporary American poets engage
with current political issues and events in an attempt to draw readers to
individual and/or communal actionâ€"to “make change in existing conditions.”
Papers may consider the work of an individual poet or compare several
poets at once; papers may also consider commentaries by poets or about the
state of contemporary poetics today; papers may also consider the role of
the reader in creating meaning out of poetry that “act[s] as part of the

This panel will engage presenters and audience in a discussion about the
relevance of contemporary poetry today. What purpose does poetry play?
Does poetry (still) matter? What impact does poetry have on readers and
why? We live in a worldâ€"at least in our classroomsâ€"where we continually
need to explain to students why poetry matters. This panel allows for us
to engage in a discussion of the ways in which contemporary poetry may or
may not be having an impact on the worlds in which we live.

Please send 500-word abstracts with contact information to Jen Riley,, as a Word document attachment by September 15, 2008.

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Received on Thu Jun 12 2008 - 14:48:46 EDT