Geography and Twentieth Century British Poetry, September 2010
Amy Cutler (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Research Group Affiliations:
Social and Cultural Research Group
Landscape Surgery (RHUL)
This session will provide a forum for exploring the opening up and re-navigating of British landscapes in twentieth century poetry. Poets in the British Isles have a long standing concern with 'land writing', the etymological meaning of 'geography'. Across the length of the twentieth century, this has developed alongside, and partly in opposition to, the growing use of survey mapping (particularly the Ordnance Survey and the aerial survey). Papers are invited which investigate how and why, in the landscape of a small island which is so tightly mapped and familiar, poets may use linguistic and other means to escape this system of representation. The focus of papers may be theoretical or textual, but notice should be taken of the tools with which poetry and geography meet, and with which they may unearth the wilderness, futurity and sites of negotiation in the post-crisis British landscape.
The session will be followed by a wine reception and poetry readings by confirmed speakers Peter Riley (Tracks and Mineshafts, Snow Has Settled (…) Bury Me Here, Excavations, A Map of Faring, The Llyn Writings), Allen Fisher (Place, Brixton Fractals, The Topological Shovel) and Iain Sinclair (Conductors of Chaos: A Poetry Anthology). Hayden Lorimer (2008) has written of the growing attraction between geographers and the discipline of poetry; the inclusion of evening readings will guarantee that this session will involve a hybrid audience of geographers and scholars of poetry, and therefore will lead to an important multi-disciplinary exchange regarding the problematic nature of indigenous land writing in the new century.
Suggested themes include, but are not limited to:
• Kenneth White and the Scottish Centre for 'geo-poetics' (1978)
• The 'Space Age' in contemporary poetry (Davidson 2007) / the use of typography, the space of the page, and other visual signs to 'map' a terrain
• Grammar and boundaries / fractal geographies / the syntax of the poem as a means for showing disruptions in the spatial
• Poetry as a means of interrogating or interrupting cartographical practises / representations of the Ordnance Survey map in British poetry (such as in Douglas Oliver's 'Ordnance Survey Map 178') / poetry as a process of 'remapping' or situationist cartography
• Landscape enclosure, regionalism, human land use history, industrial history, and heritage practises as specific to the British landscape, and thus to the forms and explorations of British poetry
• The use of metaphor / the links between language and the materialities of landscape
• Territorial practises and the identifying poet (Crawford 1993)
• Archaeology and poetry / contradictory, overlapping or hidden landscapes / subterranean explorations (such as in Peter Riley's Excavations, 2004)
• How the influence of American poets of 'geophilosophy', Charles Olson (The Maximus Poems, The Kingfishers) and Ed Dorn (Geography, The North Atlantic Turbine), may be adapted to the British context
• A study of any specific region or topography as it appears in site-specific works, for instance, wetlands and marshes in the poetry of Andrew Crozier (All Where Each Is, 1985)
• A textual study of any British poet, or poetic text, contributing to or using geographical discourses in the twentieth century
Abstracts (250 words maximum) should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 19th 2010, including the following information: name, affiliation, contact email, and technical requirements.