Planets on the Table: Leave-Taking in 20th Century Poetry, NeMLA, March 21-24, 2013, Boston, MA

full name / name of organization: 
Bill Waddell, Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

To live long enough and to have the kind of poetic career that seems to call for some formality of leave taking surely constitute a double blessing. But it's easy to imagine as well that a writer would feel a unique pressure in composing such a summation—composing in a comprehensive sense: the language, the context, the perspective. This panel aims to assemble analyses of a range of such published, leave taking gestures, of the criteria we should use (or not use) for assessing them, of the critical uses we can make (or that have been made) of them, perhaps even of our tendency to take poems that seem to face another way and invent them. The possibilities are wide indeed: from Stevens' (relatively) spare and diffident poem that provides my title, to Williams' comparatively garrulous and personal "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower," to Pound's cryptic and fragmentary though resolutely ambitious last installment of the Cantos (trying to "write Paradise," indeed!), to the curious and possibly telling apparent absence of such gestures in some careers (Moore? Bishop? Brooks?), to the eerily prescient retrospectives of Lowell (e.g. "Reading Myself," "Epilogue"), to the particulars of a self-consciousness that knows an end is coming unnaturally soon (Jane Kenyon, perhaps), to some recent work of an illustrious collection of elders still very much with us (Wilbur, Ashbery, Levine, Kumin, Walcott, Heaney, and more). That's hardly an exhaustive list.

This panel focuses on an important kind of gesture, conscious acts of self-definition, but offers a wide welcome in terms of both specific subject and approach. If there's anything that makes it especially apt at the moment, it would be the current living presence of an unusual, probably unprecedented, number of fine poets in their seventies and eighties.

Queries, 200-400 wd abstracts to Bill Waddell, at Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable. You do not need to be a current member of NeMLA to submit an abstract, but all conference participants must be or become members by Dec. 1, 2012.