CFP: [African-American] Activist Poetry / Poetic Activism (9/15/08; NeMLA 2/26-3/1/09)

full name / name of organization: 
Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega
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Activist Poetry / Poetic Activism
Northeast MLA Conference
Boston 2/26/09-3/1/09

Over the course of the 20th century, poetry has been a fundamental part of
political activism, complicating Auden's controversial claim that "poetry
makes nothing happen." To name a few: Carl Sandburg's Chicago lines spoke
for the urban underclass, Amiri Baraka's claim that "poems are bullshit
unless they have teeth" gave the Black Arts Movement a political fist, and
Martin Espada's poetic narratives record a Puerto Rican history of
political conflict. Globally, poets continue to respond to the politics of
war, conflict, inequality, and oppression in important ways which record
histories and activist dissent, and do not, necessarily, deny a complexity
or innovation of poetics.

For this panel, I seek papers which turn rigorous attention to the
intersection of poetry and politics; of poets and activism. The centrality
of politics to spoken word and slam poetry--and their growing
popularity--reminds us of the value of political poetry, despite critical
claims otherwise. Papers may engage such questions as: What happens to
poetry when it has a political agenda (when poets expect their words to
make something happen)? How has activism affected poetry? How has poetry
affected activism? How has activism shaped a particular poet's work? How
has a political poet's work made a difference?

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Received on Mon Jul 07 2008 - 15:33:41 EDT