Mysticism and Spirituality in Post-1945 Poetics

deadline for submissions: 
September 10, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
The Charles Olson Society
contact email: 

The Charles Olson Society will sponsor a session at the annual Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, to be held February 24-26, 2022. We seek abstracts concerning the relationship between avant-garde American poetics and spirituality, religion, and/or other mystical influences. The connection between experimental verse and spiritual traditions relates directly to Charles Olson’s poetry and to the poetry of many other important post-1945 figures. While Olson’s early poetry is often lauded for its materialist concerns, his later poetics has, at times, been dismissed for what poet Jack Clarke once called “the kook strain,” a line of thinking that grew increasingly esoteric, mystical, and gnostic. However, that strain in Olson’s poetics has been very influential for the course of later American poetry, with poets such as Joseph Donahue, Nathaniel Mackey, Nathaniel Tarn, Lisa Jarnot, and many others mining and deploying source material for their poems that derive from similar gnostic, Islamic, and early Christian traditions. How has the turn to these spiritual and mystical sources changed the course of American poetry in the post-1945 era? To what extent can spiritual traditions outside the orthodoxies of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and that are antithetical to the conditions of Enlightenment, be recovered from materialist critics in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries? We are interested in these kinds of questions as well as any readings that seek to explore the often productive, controversial, and critical relationship that developed between projective verse, other avant-garde poetic forms, and spiritual or mystical traditions.


Those interested should send a 250 word abstract to Joshua Hoeynck ( no later than September 10th. Please include your academic affiliation (if any) and a brief biographical note with your abstract.