CFP: Selected Poems from Modernism to NOW (France) (9/15/07; 3/13/08-3/15/08)

full name / name of organization: 
Jennifer Kilgore

March 13-15, 2008

The federating approach for this conference sponsored by LSA (Littératures et
Sociétés Anglophones) will be for presenters to examine at large or in detail
one or more books of selected poems (presumably the word "selected" figures
in the title, but exceptions will be considered) and deal with some of the
questions raised below.
Who decides what poems are the important ones for a book of Selected Poems?
When the book is edited during the author's lifetime, one may usually assume
that the author was involved. So it was for T.S. Eliot (Selected Poems, 1948)
and is for Geoffrey Hill (Selected Poems, 2006). Yet, one might say that Pound
had a hand in Eliot's Selected, since he edited The Waste Land and Eliot
maintained the changes. Would that be why Eliot chose the content for
Pound?s first volume of Selected Poems in 1928? What motivates the author to
choose one poem over another? This question leads to another, that of the
influence of the readers on the author, as far as choice is concerned, for
example in The Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (1959).
        How does the selection allow both familiar readers to approach a poetic corpus
with new insights and new readers to become initiates of the work? How do the
new reader and the familiar reader of a poet negotiate the poems that are left
out of the selection? How does a specific selection reveal or obfuscate an
author?s overall writing style or thematic choices?
        What are the methods of structuring the selection? Many authors, such as
Denise Levertov in Selected Poems (1986) or Philip Levine in New Selected Poems
(1991), or Lucille Clifton in Blessing the Boats, New and Selected Poems
1988-2000 (2000) list poems under their respective volumes in chronological
order. For example, the table of contents from Levine begins "From On the
Edge (1963)," "From Not This Pig (1968)," "From Red Dust (1971)," but some
poets prefer to avoid chronological order and group the poems thematically.
What advantages or disadvantages does such structuring offer?
Are selected volumes the ideal pedagogical tool? Robert Lowell's Selected
Poems (1976) was lauded by Marjorie Perloff as "the best possible entry into
the imaginative universe of Robert Lowell" (in a Washington Post review).
More recently, what makes Charles Bernsteins's choice of Louis Zukofsky in
Selected Poems (2006) the perfect introduction to a poet many have found
To what extent does a volume of selected poems guarantee a poet a place in the
canon of received contemporary poetry? When is the best time for a poet to make
a selection of his or her work? Gwendolyn Broooks's Selected Poems appeared in
1963, well after the Pulitzer Prize she received in 1950, and long before she
stopped writing poetry. Adrienne Rich's Poems: Selected and New 1950-1974
was published in 1975 when she was forty-six. Jeffrey Wainwright's Selected
Poems (1985) firmly established his poetic reputation. Jon Silkin's Selected
Poems were issued in 1980, when he was fifty. C.H. Sisson's Selected Poems
were published in 1995, when he was eighty-one years old and had been writing
poetry for some fifty years.
How does the living poet deal with the expansion of creativity, as she or he
outlives a first selection? Tony Harrison's Selected Poems (1984) was
expanded as soon as 1987 to include "V." But T.S. Eliot allowed his 1948
selection, which grouped poems from Prufrock and Other Observations to The
Waste Land through "Ash Wednesday," "Ariel Poems," and "Choruses from
'The Rock'" to be re-issued without adding his later work.
What are the differences for the reader between volumes of collected and
selected poems? The question might be examined using the case of Stevie Smith,
whose Selected Poems (Penguin 1978), chosen by James MacGibbon, were already
available in The Collected Poems of Stevie Smith (1975).
The above suggestions for inquiry are to be completed by the presenters with
their own preoccupations concerning the selection process. It is hoped that
this theme will generate interest between readers of different branches of
contemporary poetry in English who do not always have the occasion to exchange

DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS: September 15, 2007.
Proposals should be in English, 500 words long, and accompanied by a brief
biographical statement. Please send as a word document to: and
Jennifer Kilgore
Université de Caen
Département d'Anglais
Esplanade de la Paix
14032 CAEN Cedex

Presenters will speak for 20 minutes, with 10 additional minutes allotted for
questions & discussion. A peer-reviewed publication of the papers is planned
for 2009.

Jennifer Kilgore, Université de Caen & Hélène Aji, Université du Maine.

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Received on Fri Apr 06 2007 - 17:57:02 EDT