Open Channels: Divinatory Poetics and Critique of the Lyric

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

Open Channels: Divinatory Poetics and Critique of the Lyric

A Roundtable at the 53rd Annual Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) Convention

March 10-13, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland

This roundtable explores how poets deploy divination, automatic writing, and other occult or ritualized methods of composition designed to circumvent authorial control and/or engage in forms of polyvocality; in so doing, these writers seek to resist the primacy of the lyric “I” and revitalize generic clichés and commonplaces. Analyses of occult poetics and literary mysticism tend to emphasize how these methods facilitate communication with the dead and engage in a reimagination of the past; our roundtable hopes to enrich this discussion by considering how poets challenge traditional approaches to the lyric through the introduction of subliminal, supernatural, or vatic material. We seek to answer:

- How are divinatory practices—including but not limited to chant, speaking in tongues, angelic communication, possession, automatic and asemic writing, chance operations—marshaled toward literary experimentation?
- How might these practices work against hegemonies, both aesthetic and cultural?
- Where do poets engage in these practices as extensions or manifestations of belief, and where are they taken up irreverently or as outlets for play?

We are particularly interested in papers that take a comparative approach, engage with new religious movements and alternative spiritual communities, and take up decolonial perspectives. Although concerned primarily with figures from the 19th century to the present, we welcome proposals from earlier periods.

The due date for abstract submissions is September 30, 2021. General guidelines for submitting to the conference and information about session types can be found at

Submit your abstract of 300 words or fewer here:

Please contact the roundtable organizers, Brandon Menke ( and Sara Judy (, with any questions.