​​Sonnets from the American: A Symposium and Critical Anthology

deadline for submissions: 
May 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Johns Hopkins University/Stevenson University
contact email: 


Saturday, October 3, 2020: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. (NOW WILL CONVENE VIRTUALLY, due to COVID-19), Co-organized by Dora Malech (Johns Hopkins University) & Laura T. Smith (Stevenson University)

Critical Anthology:

Sonnets from the American: An Anthology of Poems and Essays (under contract with the University of Iowa Press)
Co-edited by Dora Malech & Laura T. Smith

Nearly 800 years since its invention, the sonnet is in a period of extraordinary production and development, taken up by poets from every corner of the aesthetic field. In American poetry, more than 25 collections have centralized the sonnet in the last three years alone, often in book-length sonnet sequences. Formal and formally subversive sonnets by established and emerging poets show the form continuing to function as a poetic bellwether, revealing how American poets seek to engage with forbears and tradition, from homage to interrogation, as they negotiate public and private questions of nation, race, class, gender, sexuality, and diaspora within the form’s peculiar confines.

The Sonnets from the American Symposium and Critical Anthology (under contract with University of Iowa Press) will emphasize connections across literary periods and movements within the American sonnet tradition while showcasing contemporary developments. We seek to draw together the diverse critical voices, methodologies, and historical and theoretical perspectives that represent the burgeoning field of American sonnet studies to address a need at this point in the American sonnet’s history for an expansive and focused examination.

We are interested in contributions that investigate the ways the 19th century American sonnet maintains the sonnet’s traditional European prosody while turning to explicitly American themes, as well as how it complicates the largely white and male canon of the European sonnet through cases such as Emma Lazarus’s “New Colossus,” an American call of welcome to refugees written by a woman of Jewish heritage. 

We are interested in contributions that trace a tradition of a socially and politically radical American sonnet to the present day, along with the aesthetic debate that has accompanied the American sonnet, as Harlem Renaissance writers questioned the relative politics and value of the form for emergent black literary representation, as did feminist poets again in the 1980s and 1990s. 

And we are interested in troubling any assumption that the American sonnet’s story begins in traditional prosody and ends in a complete subversion of that tradition. We invite presentations and essays that contain and analyze the American sonnet’s multitudes.
For the symposium, we invite short (ten minute) talks on the American sonnet for roundtable discussion. Topics and themes may include (but are not limited to):

  • Transhistorical trends in the American sonnet
  • The sonnet form and formal experimentation
  • Roots of an American sonnet tradition
  • 19th century American sonnet
  • The sonnet and literary status
  • Sonnet lineages and intertextuality in sonnet tradition
  • Sonnet sequences and collections
  • The sonnet and dialect poetry
  • The sonnet and feminist poetics
  • The queer sonnet
  • The American sonnet and the sonnet’s global history
  • The sonnet and national poetics
  • The sonnet and restraint/confinement
  • Sonnet, social issues, and political activism
  • Documentary poetics and the sonnet
  • Race, racism, civil rights, and the sonnet
  • Sonnet and affect
  • AIDS and the sonnet
  • American resistance to the sonnet
  • The sonnet and poetic movements/schools/communities
  • The sonnet and American history
  • The sonnet and public poetry
  • Love, sex, and the American sonnet
  • Death, mourning, and the sonnet

Symposium Guidelines: Please send an abstract (300 word max.) for a short talk/paper and a brief bio to Dora Malech and Laura Smith at sonnetsfromtheamerican@gmail.com by Sunday, May 31 (DEADLINE EXTENDED!). (Talks/papers themselves should be no longer than ten minutes.)

Critical Anthology Guidelines: Short (1000 - 3000 word) essays will be accepted for consideration until Monday, December 14, 2020, though earlier submissions are welcome and highly encouraged. While the main focus of this publication is scholarly/critical for a general reading audience, we are open to consideration of lyric/hybrid essays or personal essays by poets as well.