Alexandra Berlina
"Self-Translations in Close Reading: Iosif Brodskii / Joseph Brodsky"

Iosif Brodskii and Joseph Brodsky – are the two one and the same poet?

Not merely switching back and forth between different identities and poetics but also continuously comparing them and dealing in internal cultural import and export, Brodsky famously answered the question often posed to him by journalist upon his receiving the Nobel Prize, “Are you American or Russian?”, thusly: “I’m Jewish; a Russian poet, an English essayist – and, of course, an American citizen”. Bicultural by definition as a Russian Jew, Brodsky was also extremely Anglophile; early on, he began integrating echoes of Auden into Russian poems. He did not have a Nabokovian trilingual childhood but a poor Soviet one. He managed to make a Northern Russian village his “contact zone”: he taught himself English in his twenties, in internal exile, with the help of smuggled poetry and an old dictionary. He learned English poetry by heart while having now idea how the words sound. After being thrown out of the USSR and landing in the States, he realized that he understood written English well but hardly anyone could make sense of his attempts to speak the language. Still, soon he began to translate his own poetry and to write in English, trying – first unconsciously, and then deliberately – to accommodate Russian poetics within the English language.

How is his poetry transformed in translation, and how do the alterations reflect upon issues of memory? This paper will concentrate on the way in which Brodsky’s residence in the United States and his switch to the English language changes the representation of self and memory in his poetry.

Mandy Bloomfield
"Palimtextual Tracts: Susan Howe’s American landscapes"

For the American poet Susan Howe, landscapes are repositories of cultural histories. Her work engages landscapes and their cultural memories through an archival sifting and formal layering of multiple literary and historical texts: ‘slipping back to primordial / We go through the word Forest’ (1). Such poetic negotiations of the’ memorious’ landscapes of North America can usefully be described as ‘palimtextual’, a term coined by Michael Davidson to emphasise the ‘multilayered quality of the material text’ (2) and its social and cultural interactions. My paper will trace the thread of Howe’s long-running poetic encounter with specific American geographies in three works: Secret History of the Dividing Line (1978), ‘Thorow’ (1990) and Souls of the Labadie Tract (2007). These palimtextual tracts offer ways of investigating a history of colonial mapping, appropriation and commodification. How, these poems ask, can the cross-cultural encounters and clashes of these landscapes’ histories be rendered palpable on the surface of the poetic page? How might poetry offer ways of excavating the layered memories of landscapes to recover traces of counter-memories covered over by dominant narratives? What, in particular, are the possibilities of ‘slipping back to primordial’ through this landscape and its texts? Howe’s poems, I will argue, physically constitute themselves as places, ‘word Forest[s]’, which articulate both their complicity with prior cultural constructions and a desire to imagine ethical alternatives.

(1) Howe, ‘Thorow’, Singularities, (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1990), p. 49.
(2) Michael Davidson, On the Outskirts of Form (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2011), p. 6.

Michel Delville
"Revisiting Cornell: Rosmarie Waldrop’s and Charles Simic’s Totems of the Self"

The art of Joseph Cornell has inspired American writers as diverse as Robert Pinsky, John Yau, Diane Ackerman, Lydia Davis, and Robert Coover. This talk concentrates on the works of Rosmarie Waldrop (Blindsight, 2003) and Charles Simic (Dime-Store Alchemy, 1992), two expatriate poets whose transnational poetics have been geared towards an act of reappropriation and interpretation of Cornell’s techniques and working methods. Both writers have found in Cornell’s “time capsules” the medium of an imaginary reconstruction of the junk shop of American culture and history. As close readings of individual poems will show, this process reaches far beyond ekphrasis and aims to investigate what Linda Hartigan has described as Cornell’s “sliding scale between minutiae and art and public and private attention”. Special consideration will also be given to the interplay of meaning, syntax and memory as well as to the extent to which textual or visual collage can manifest a particular movement in consciousness and time, one which creates leaps from the most specific and personal to the widest collective forms of experience.

Daniela Daniele
"Alice in Wasteland: _Exit 43_ by Jennifer Scappettone in the transnational environmental crisis"

My paper revolves around the choreopoem by Jennifer Scappettone, _Exit 43_ and a group of related poems ispired to the authoress by the deterritorialization produced by periurban landfills and areas of transit where toxic waste is concentrated. The descendant of Italian refugees from Sarno, the Southern Italian village devastated by mudslides, Scappettone explores the new wasteland which takes her back to the lost memory of the ecological disaster that forced her grandfather to emigrate to America. Suspended between past and present, her ecocritical exercise is a journey into memory that, like Robert Smithson’s mixed-media account of toxic waste in Utah, takes the shape of a visual/texual work which illuminates peripheral areas of periurban disaster in a geographical dislocation that, from Williams’s _Paterson_ to Smithson’s travelogues, has turned both Modern and contemporary "ambient poetry" into a lyrical meditation on dumping-grounds and W.A.S.T.E. as literary spaces of mind and of discarded and residual signs of ethnic dissent and violated beauty.

Kornelia Freitag
"Eurydice: Agha Shahid Ali’s Poetry of Memory"

Indian American poet Agha Shahid Ali’s poetry reaches out over national borders in order to write cultural memory by connecting stories, histories, traditions, and fates. Ali’s collection Nostalgist's Map of America (1991) short-circuits e.g. Route 80 in Ohio and a road to Calcutta in India, his elegy for a dying friend and a poem by Emily Dickinson, or the story of the legendary Greek Eurydice and the fate of a concentration camp inmate at Bergen-Belsen. One might read this bold mixing of the global and the local as a sign of postmodernist “time-space compression” (Harvey) or “deterritorialization” (Giddens, Pease et al.), i.e. of the shrinking importance of distances and space in the current phase of globalization. Yet while these explanations seem quite convincing at a first glance, I will argue that the preconditions for the effect of Ali’s poetry are precisely ‘time-space decompression’ and ‘territorialization.’ A closer look at the various techniques and functions of the fusion of different local and historic images, traditions, and stories in Ali’s poetry will show that the American “nostalgia-” or rather the memory-making in the poems depends crucially on the spatial and temporal clashes and differences of the images, traditions, and stories that are evoked. The poetic cultural memory in Ali’s verses is not so much stored in but produced by, and depending upon the dynamics that result from the splicing of vastly different cultural hi/stories in time and space.

Christine Gerhardt
"'Nothing Stays Put': Environmental Memory in Contemporary American Migration Poetry"

In American migration poetry, nature has long played a prominent role, mainly in terms of suggestive symbols for people’s attachment to their places of home or for the migrant’s sense of being “uprooted.” In recent poems of movement, however, nature also matters in a more immediate environmental sense, as they explore how people’s geographical movement is related to their perspectives on the natural world and to particular kinds of human-nature interaction. Frequently, such poems engage the environmental implications of human migration by way of juxtaposing present conditions of a highly mobile, transnational world to past ways of being with the land.

Considering the significance of groundedness in place to environmental consciousness, increasing transnational mobility may seem to be responsible for a large-scale loss of platial connection and thus a loss of accountability for human interaction with the land. This paper analyzes instances of environmental memory in contemporary migration poetry, arguing to the contrary that they critically revisit and disturb such nostalgic yearning for an ostensibly more nature-oriented past grounded in one place: these poems invoke the memory of past instances of human movement in relation to specific non-human environments that turn out to be equally unstable and mobile. The environmental memory peculiar to migration poetry is thus best explained by placing it in relation to disequilibrium ecology, a relatively new conceptualization of ecosystems as in a permanent state of imbalance, of which disruptions such as floods or forest fires are an integral part. By negotiating past and present ways of being in place, contemporary migration poetry understands the natural world as being constituted in rather than threatened by disruption and change, and human beings as dynamically “at home” in webs of shifting environmental constellations.

Michael Golston
"Allegory as an Aid to Writing Memory: Lyn Hejinian and Surrealism"

Lyn Hejinian claims that Writing Is an Aid to Memory enacts “the active phenomenological capacity of writing”; the book she says is “a medium for thinking” in which she “was interested in epistemology: in consciousness, in knowledge, in the ways that knowledge is organized and structured.” I argue that Hejinian writes a kind of phenomenological allegory: in her work, knowing is always a matter of unriddling allegorical figures; reading is conceived as an ongoing process of bridging the gaps “posed to thinking by the awareness of incommensurable distances within its object of thought” (to quote Fredric Jameson on allegory); literacy and knowledge are organized and structured by the symbolic letters of the alphabet; and Writing Is an Aid to Memory is “a medium for dialogic and dialectical processes, a medium for being there and knowing that that is happening.” I situate Hejinian’s work within and against Surrealist and Formalist models; she traffics in both, and unlike many of the Language poets, her relationship with Surrealism is relatively uncomplicated. She has also recently overtly turned towards allegory as a critical tool for understanding her own writing as well as the poetry of her contemporaries. Hejinian’s work, I argue, has always involved allegory working at the level of form—“form” here implying the characters that make up writing itself. Driven at the level of the letter, Writing Is an Aid to Memory is founded on a theory of reading as ongoing temporal negotiation of semantic and syntactic gaps fixed in fractured alphabetical structures. It is through the symbolic lattice of the alphabet that, according to Hejinian, “formations of knowledge [can] be made perceptible.” “Knowing” then occurs in the transient experience of reading itself, understood as an episodic, transitive encounter with the linkages—between letter and sound, sound and syllable, syllable and word, word and phrase, phrase and sentence, alphabet and meaning and thinking—that make up writing. The disjunctive metaphors of Surrealism cast into combinatory grammars in an alphabetic mesh comprise the allegorical text in which Hejinian composes her “picture of knowledge underway.”

Jens Gurr
"The City, Poetry, and the Palimpsest: The Poetics of Urban Memory in Modernist Poetry"

The proposed paper attempts to read Modernist urban poetry and poetics (especially in the work of T.S. Eliot, but also of Ezra Pound, T.E. Hulme and others) in the light of early Urban Studies (Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, but also the early Chicago School). In particular, I propose to consider Benjamin’s notion of “superposition” and the related concept of “remembering the new” as explored by Hassenpflug in its implications for urban semiotics. The related view of the city as a palimpsest and the notion of layered spatialized memory this entails, I argue, accords well with the poetics of Modernist urban poetry.

Though ‘memory’ is a frequent topic in discussions of The Waste Land, for instance, the exact way in which the structure of The Waste Land appears to mimic urban complexity and suggestively establishes a similarly layered structure of urban memory, as I see it, has not really been pointed out. It depends, I argue, on a combination of Eliot’s technique of extreme con¬densation enabled by the multiple allusions with the repetition of key phrases. This double effect of incisive allu¬sions creating additional levels of meaning which are then channeled into further passages by means of suggestive repetition suggestively allows for an extreme multiplication and condensation of meaning appropriate to the representation of urban complexity and especially of layers of memory in the modernist city.

Further parallels can be pointed out between other central concepts in early urban studies and formal as well as thematic concerns of both British and American Modernist city poetry. In short, without positing an influence in either direction, I propose that key concepts in Urban Studies – especially those of its roughly contemporary early exponents – might more systematically be employed in discussing Modernist city poetry.

Benjamin, Walter. Das Passagenwerk. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1991. 2 vols.
Hassenpflug, Dieter. “Once Again: Can Urban Space be Read?” Reading the City: Developing Urban Hermeneutics/Stadt lesen: Beiträge zu einer urbanen Hermeneutik. Ed. Dieter Hassenpflug, Nico Giersig, and Bernhard Stratmann. Weimar: Verlag der Bauhaus-Universität, 2011. 49-58.
Simmel, Georg. “The Metropolis and Mental Life” [1903]. The City Cultures Reader. Ed. Malcolm Miles, Tim Hall, and Iain Borden. London: Routlege, 22004. 12-19.

Heinz Ickstadt
"'Historical imagination gathers in the missing': History, Memory and Strategies of Commemoration in the Poetry of Susan Howe and Anne Carson"

In tying the poetic to the historical imagination and both – like blood gathering in an open wound – to a consciousness of loss, Susan Howe would seem to place herself in the continuity of a romantic-modernist tradition that runs from Emerson via Emily Dickinson (perhaps even via Hart Crane) to William Carlos Williams and Charles Olson. Indeed a consciousness of gash or gap marks all her poetry. It creates the need to remember and, in remembering, to recover; yet, in recovering, also deepens the consciousness of loss on which it thrives. History is thus memory and commemoration (akin to elegy, as Carson writes in Nox): It is memory extended toward the collective and impersonal, and remembering, for Howe, an act of "retrospective excursion" into a "wilderness" of neglected or forgotten texts and objects, collected in the Temple not of Nature but in the modern temples of archive and museum. Howe plays quite openly with this metaphoric shift from transcendental "Nature" to post-transcendental "text" (and/or the materiality of artifact). But if the "gap" between nature and sign/text/language constitutes ultimate loss ("a problem of lost Originals"), it also constitutes a new and ultimate ground of recovery/discovery: to explore an intertextual wilderness and what she calls the "wild interiority" of language. The metaphor is curious not only because language has replaced "nature" as the realm of the wild but also "self" as the realm of interiority. (In this respect, her poetry is – as Marjorie Perloff has it – not self-exploration but the portrait of self "in a citational mirror.") If the sense of loss makes for the elegiac tone of much of Howe's poetry, its often passionate exuberance is connected with her sense of unending linguistic exploration: "Poets are always beginning again. They sail always to a place they hope they can name," she once declared in Emersonian (or Steinian) fashion. But what happens when the consciousness of loss is deeply personal, when history is the memory of personal affliction, and the poem the painful commemoration of a lost husband or brother? Although the lecture is primarily on Howe and will discuss several of her more recent texts, it will concentrate on That This and compare it with Anne Carson's Nox – also a commemorative work (and, like Howe's, published in 2010) that uses comparable strategies of textual disruption but is yet different in tone and structure.

Zakhar Ishov
"Joseph Brodsky’s “December in Florence”: an intervention by a self-translating poet"

Soon after Brodsky’s expulsion in 1972 from the Soviet Union and his settling in the USA, the translation of his own verse into English became a matter of Brodsky’s professional career as an American poet. Supervising the translations of his verse from Russian into English done by other translators, Brodsky set out to adjust the translations in line with his idea that above all the metrical structure of the originals should be preserved in translation. This practice of authorial revision was not received with enthusiasm by many of his co-translators and met with harsh attacks from critics, many of whom claimed that in reworking translations by others Brodsky overstepped the rules of English grammar and prosody and that his self-translations did not sound idiomatically or metrically correct in English. The critical debate on this issue became easily reduced to trading of opinions where one party charges Brodsky with ‘un-Englishness,’ while the other tries to legitimise his English poems by referring them back to their Russian originals.

In my paper I am trying to break the deadlock by looking at some concrete and previously unavailable archival materials pertaining to the translation of the poem “December in Florence.” This translation involved Brodsky’s collaboration with various translators, including, the famous American poet, Robert Lowell. Brodsky had a deep respect for Lowell. Moreover, Lowell was a great connoisseur and admirer of Dante and his Divine Comedy whom Brodsky is paying a tribute in the poem. Yet, presented with the end result Brodsky dismissed Lowell’s translation. Subsequently, however, Brodsky used Lowell’s translation practically as a draft for an English version of his own, a draft which he set to drastically rework. The detailed comparative study of the drafts uncovers the logic behind certain decisions of the author-translator and provides an insight into important aspects of Brodsky’s poetics which transcend the practice of self-translation. At the same time this unique translating collaboration between Brodsky and Lowell, two major poets in their languages, raises the contentious issue of the ownership over a translation.

Evangelia Kindinger
"Xenitia in Contemporary Poetry on the Greek Diaspora"

Xenitia - “sojourning to foreign lands” (Kalogeras 716) - and the feeling of not being at home is “central to the historical experience of the Greeks in modern times” (Clogg 4). It has been a central motif in Greek literature since Antiquity, the most prominent example being Odysseus’ sojourn to foreign lands that lasted ten years. Like many Greeks in the diaspora, Odysseus finally returned to Ithaca, to his home and supposedly escaped xenitia. In the realm of current discussions on counter-diasporic movements to the former or ancestral homeland, I am interested in how both imaginary and concrete return movements are negotiated in Greek American poetry, specifically in the works of Penelope Karageorge, Nicholas Samaras and Kostas Myrsiades. What happens to xenitia and the emotions it induces when one returns? I will argue that these poets represent it as an inescapable and irreversible condition in today’s ‘transnational world.’

Works Cited
Clogg, Richard. A Concise History of Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. Print.
Kalogeras, Yiorgos. “The ‘Other’ Space of Greek America.” American Literary History 10.4 (1998): 702-24. Print.

Simone Knewitz
"William Carlos Williams’s Transnational Poetics"

William Carlos Williams is primarily known as a modernist poet who strove to establish an autochthonous American poetic tradition, writing in a specifically “American idiom.” Though Williams’s ties to European traditions and avant-gardist movements such as imagism have been appreciated in the criticism on his work, Williams’s engagement with Latin America has received comparatively little attention. Indeed, throughout his life, Williams pointed to his own Latino roots, and translated literary texts by Latin American authors from Spanish into English.

My contribution seeks to shift our perspective on Williams by engaging him as a transnational poet, rereading Williams’s negotiation of borders in his late long poem “The Desert Music.” Based on a visit to the borderlands of the United States and Mexico, Williams wrote this “occasional poem” for the commencement of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard University in 1951. “The Desert Music,” I will argue, is not only a highly self-reflective poem in which Williams negotiates his own position as poet and his poetic program; it must also be contextualized within contemporary political debates around illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States, a problem which would prompt the American government to inaugurate “Operation Wetback” only a couple of years later.

Christian Klöckner
"'Who twist your mind': Amiri Baraka's Transnational Counter-Memory of Violence"

“Somebody Blew Up America,” the 9/11 poem by Amiri Baraka that created a heated political controversy because of its alleged spread of an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, does not only remember how African Americans have suffered from “domestic terrorism” (Baraka) but catalogues a global history of violence. The poem’s “who’s” explore the underlying forces and patterns of murders and atrocities around the world and interrogate their processes of memory and forgetting. The poem thus is a good example of Baraka’s evolving efforts to fashion a transnational poetic countermemory of violence – a countermemory that starts with the immediate and the personal and looks for the hidden histories excluded from dominant narratives. Starting with Baraka’s 9/11 poem, my talk will trace the shifting contours of Baraka’s (trans)national countermemories, from his bohemian Greenwich Village days over his panafrican, black nationalist phase to the poetry of his critically rather neglected Third-World Marxist period. Just as Baraka once arrived Home (1966) in the black world by going to Cuba, Baraka goes beyond stylistic as well as national boundaries to fuse avant-garde writing with African myths and materials. Although his poetry has differed tremendously over time, his evocation and aesthetic projection of violence still is supposed to turn poetry into “a weapon of revolution” at home and abroad.

Rüdiger Kunow
"Forgetting Memory: Poetry and Alzheimer's Disease"

This paper makes an attempt to come to terms with the creativity of people who are commonly believed to have lost not only that creativity but also their memory and ultimately their selves. The argument addresses the contemporary obsession with Alzheimer's as a transnational cipher for old age and provides information about a variety of advocacy activities in the United States which seek to counter the debilitating effects of that diagnostic label. The paper then offers a reading of a sample of poetry texts written by Alzheimer's patients and discusses how the redemptive aesthetics of this kind of poetry can serve as a tool for a cultural critique of memory and memory loss as crucial components of selfhood and identity.

Nadine Maestas
"The Music of the Unsayable: A Transnational perspective of Nathaniel Mackey’s Song of the Andoumboulou"

While emphasizing transnational reading practices, this paper, titled, “The Music of the Unsayable: A Transnational perspective of Nathaniel Mackey’s Song of the Andoumboulou, seeks to articulate the material scene of origin for Nathaniel Mackey’s long serial poem Song of the Andoumboulou. Mackey first encounters the West African Dogon mythology of the Andoumboulou through a 1956 recording titled “Chants des Andouboulou” which is part of the funeral ceremonies of the Dogon people of Mali in West Africa. This recording sparks Mackey’s own line of inquiry into the Dogon mythology which he does through Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen’s book Pale Fox. If it is the “Chants des Andoumboulou” that provides the sound, the music for Mackey’s poetics, then it is Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen’s book Pale Fox that provides Mackey’s sense of the story of the origin, or the history of the Andoumboulou. I describe Mackey as Benjamin describes Paul Klee’s painting titled “Angelus Novus” in his Theses on the Phioloshophy of History, as “the angel of history. His face turned toward the past” while a “storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned.” Using this image I propose that Mackey’s poem is about the search to move forward by means of immersion in a premodern past. The forward movement results in an increased sensitivity to the sound and materiality of the historical text as well as to the process by which the material historicizing of texts occurs. The Dogon myth in Mackey’s Song of Andoumboulou directly takes up anthropology as its field of discourse and practices a poetic process I call anthropoetics in order to enable a textual reconstruction of history that simultaneously constructs and makes visible and audible a utopian future.

Anthropoetics is a method of reading that attempts to trace poems, or as might be more accurate in Mackey’s case, poetic systems, back to the text’s material scene of origin. In focusing on the process, development and design of the poetic system as it spring from its textual material scene of origin, I hope to bring to light that poem making and world making for Mackey are one in the same and that they inform the way in which Mackey textually reconstructs a history that is inclusive of marginalized histories. For Mackey what is at stake in taking up West African mythology of the Dogon is an “unrepresented history or underrepresented or hidden aspect of history, a history that doesn’t make it to mainstream venues for the most part, mainstream historical texts, mainstream historical curricula” and because “poetry is” for Mackey as he notes in an interview with Charles H. Rowell, “a vehicle for imparting and keeping alive secret knowledge, secret information, secret wisdom.” Mackey’s Song of the Andoumboulou, derived from transnational reading practices presents a way of uncovering, or unveiling a history that has been hidden, marginalized, or obscured.

Dennis Mischke
"'Something further may follow of this Masquerade': Transnational Memory and Herman Melville's Turn from Prose to Verse"

Herman Melville spent more time writing poetry than novels and is yet remembered as a novelist. Most of his poetry being published after the public failure of his novel The Confidence Man – His Masquerade Melville’s poetry is often dismissed as a ‘private hobby’ of a disillusioned writer. Contrary to this misconception my paper argues that Melville’s poetry constitutes a vital part of his literary oeuvre. Already throughout his novels Melville uses ‘sea songs’ and ‘ballads’ as mnemotechnics to narrate and remember transnational encounters. Looking at this cosmopolitan poetics in his work from the perspective of transnational American Studies I will suggest that Melville can be regarded as a transnational poet avant la lettre.

Charles Molesworth
"Affect, Affinity, and Allegiance: Was Countée Cullen anti-American?"

Countée Cullen's reputation presents him as a milder version of the Harlem Renaissance poet, standing in the shadow of the more innovative Langston Hughes. But Cullen wrote poetry beyond those lyrics which brought him renown in the late 1920's. After the high water mark of the Renaissance his poetry grew darker, and reflected many of the frustrations of his personal life. Though he did not turn to political or socially conscious poetry in any deep or extended way, he nevertheless continued to struggle with questions about racism and about the way race and esthetic values intersected. One of his late poems has been little discussed, but it shows us - when put in a biographical context - how Cullen regarded America's limitations as a democratic polity. The poem deserves at least a close look, and it also raises the question of how to read those works by a poet that apparently lack any poetic drive or fail in their rhetoric. A larger issue that can be addressed at least glancingly is, how do we use a writer's recorded opinions about social and political issues when they are not the man focus of his or her work?

Timo Müller
"Transnational Memories and the African American Sonnet: Claude McKay and Rita Dove"

While research in African American poetry has traditionally focused on poets’ relations—real or imagined—with their American surroundings and their African origins, many poets have given at least equal attention to their relation with the European culture that dominated their education and set the terms of their literary and cultural self-positioning. The adaptation of European poetic forms has played an important role in this process. Against the background of my post-doctoral research project “The African American Sonnet,” I propose to trace in this paper the significance of the sonnet form for the transnational self-positioning of two influential African American poets. Claude McKay adapts the classic travelogue sonnet to record his impressions of American, European, and African cities during his travels around the Black Atlantic in the 1930s. He projects the sonnet as a culturally multilayered tradition that reflects the equally multilayered personal and cultural memories he senses in the varied, often colonial history of these cities. Rita Dove’s sonnet sequence “Her Island” (1995) posits the traditional sonnet as an “intact world” and proceeds to explore the ruptures that emerge as soon as the traditional content and form of that world are called into question. Dove blends the narrative of her travels through Sicily with mythical and colonial memories that create such ruptures and gauges the interstitial underworlds that emerge underneath. Central figures in Harlem Renaissance and contemporary black poetry respectively, McKay and Dove stand for two paradigmatic approaches to a poetics of black transnational memory.

Diederik Oostdijk
"Becoming a Transnational Poet: James Merrill and the Memory of Hans Lodeizen"

In 1946 the American poet James Merrill (1926-1995) met the Dutch poet Hans Lodeizen (1924-1950) at Amherst College. Merrill was an undergraduate student who had just returned from World War II, while Lodeizen was a graduate student in biology. Lodeizen was the first international poet Merrill met and the slightly older Dutch poet became a model for a how a gay poet could eke out his poetics. Merrill visited Lodeizen shortly before Lodeizen’s death of leukemia in Lausanne while Merrill was on a sojourn through Europe that would keep him away from the United States for more than a decade. Merrill has admitted that Lodeizen’s death was his “first deeply felt death,” but the true extent of Lodeizen’s legacy has never been explored fully. This paper analyzes how and why the memory of Hans Lodeizen lingered all through Merrill’s career. Lodeizen’s presence is palpable in his elegy “The Country of a Thousand Years of Peace,” his translations of Lodeizen’s poems, and his epic poem The Changing Light of Sandover in which Merrill tries to conjure up Lodeizen with a Ouija board, but also in Merrill’s final poems in which he knew he was dying of AIDS. I will argue that Lodeizen was his transnational double whose short life contrasted so jarringly with his rich and long life, therefore haunting Merrill until his very end.

Martina Pfeiler
"Performing Cultural Memory in Slam Poetry"

Memory has moved to center stage in U.S.-American slam poetry since the genre's first cultural inception in 1986. On a very basic level it informs processes of memorization as the poet mentally engages with the written composition for an oral performance. This paper, however, will be concerned with a selection of performances at the White House Poetry Jam on May 12, 2009. It explores the challenges and limitations of (trans-)national poetics of “some of the nations mosts gifted performers” (Barack Obama). Through a close analysis of Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio’s “Kumulipa” and Mayda del Valle’s poem “A Faith Like Yours”, this paper takes up and seeks to expand Astrid Errl’s and Ann Rigney’s proposition in “Literature and the Cultural Production of Memory” (1) (2006), in which they designate the roles of literature as follows: “1) literature as a medium of remembrance; 2) literature as an object of remembrance; and 3) literature as a medium for observing the production of cultural memory.” (112)  It will argue that the two performances engage actively in the discourses, processes and constructions of cultural memory and cultural forgetting over space and time, while simultaneously becoming contested sites of  “`mediatised` aspects of cultural remembrance” (111).

(1) Err, Astrid and Ann Rigney. “Introduction. Literature and the Cultural Production of Memory.” European Journal of English Studies. Vol. 10, No. 2 August 2006, pp. 111 – 115. 2006. Taylor & Francis. WEB. Last accessed on 8 March 2012.

Brian Reed
"Personalizing the Alphabet: The New York School and the New Australian Poetry"

This paper recounts the reception of New York School aesthetics among the Australian “Generation of 68,” a group of bohemian artists and authors living in Sydney and Melbourne. Poets such as Michael Dransfield, Laurie Duggan, John Forbes, Kris Hemensley, Pam Brown, and John Tranter welcomed John Ashbery’s and Frank O’Hara’s witty urbane verse as a model for how they might overcome the “colonial cringe,” a feeling of cultural subservience toward British precedent. An embrace of American writers, however, caused its own problems, given the strength of the Australian anti-Vietnam War movement and given the pressing question of indigenous land rights in the wake of Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd (1971). I trace how, between the publication of the anthologies Australian Poetry Now (1970) and The New Australian Poetry (1979), these writers refashioned New York School traits to help create a distinctively Australian version of postcolonial poetics.

Susanne Rohr
"And death looks on with a casual eye“ – Trauma and Holocaust Poetry"

This contribution will tackle the question of how the topic of the Holocaust, originally a decidedly European event, (re-)appears in the American context. While a lot has already been said about the strategies that American narrative texts use to deal with the issue, the ways in which American poetry takes up the subject have not been examined in equal measure. The lecture will thus ask: What are the cross-cultural and cross-national exchanges, influences, and confluences in Holocaust poetry? If the trauma of the Holocaust has become a transnational phenomenon – has a transnational poetics developed along the way? In the lecture I will examine the representational strategies of earlier post-war Holocaust poetry, of American Holocaust poetry written in the 1970s and 1980s and will end in the immediate present by examining contemporary poems. Texts under scrutiny will encompass works by Van K. Brock, Ruth Fainlight, Anthony Hecht, Randall Jarrell, Sylvia Plath, Charles Reznikoff, Anne Sexton, W.D. Snodgrass and Claudia Rankine.

Sabine Sielke
"Emily Dickinson and the Poetics of the Brain, or: Perception, Memory, Migration"

“The Brain – is wider than the Sky –,” Dickinson famously wrote in one of her poems which echoes through current work in cognitive science and contemporary prose preoccupied with processes of cognition. Research and writing on perception and memory seem to remember Dickinson because her work – focused on perception as a physical as much as a mental process – resonates with current scientific insight, including the sense that “[r]einstalling memory traces is closer to perceiving than to reproducing the original content of memory” (Wolf Singer). How does this understanding of memory, though, relate to our current conceptions of memory cultures? And what does the ‘migration’ of poetry into brain science add to our conversation about affinity, allegiance, and belonging? Pondering what I call Dickinson’s poetics of the brain my contribution interrogates the desire, on the part of current literary and cultural studies, to transcend cultural, national, and disciplinary borderlines, engage in hemispheric travel, and become “wider than the sky,” indeed.

MaryAnn Snyder-Körber
"Memory Machinations: Replaying The Waste Land"

"What was Modernism?" There is no more controversial title in Modernist Studies than this one, published in a 1960 issue of The Massachusetts Review by Harry Levin. The past tense makes for the primary provocation. Levin analyzed the modernist art movement as an accomplished fact that could now be safely filed away in the historical archive. His immediate critics took issue with the diagnosis, arguing that the modernist impulse was hardly over. More recent, indirect respondents are less troubled by the idea of modernism's historical moment being finite than with the particular way modernism has been institutionally remembered. In his recent call for a transnational poetics Jahan Ramazani has challenged scholars to think modernism in expanded coordinates. This enlarged view would include the geographical and transcultural movement long central to notions of international modernism as the art of the expatriate and exile, but also consider "the proliferation of cartography-traversing technologies such as the telephone, cinema, and radio, ... the circulation of avant-garde art and translations among European and North American cities, the rapid global movement of capital, ... the dramatic expansion of the British Empire across a quarter of the land’s surface by World War I, the emergence at the same time of the US as a new political and world power" (A Transnational Poetics 2009, 24).

The proposed paper takes up Ramazani's challenge to think early twentieth-century modernism within expanded frameworks, specifically working to re-remember American modernism's link to both "cartography-traversing technologies" and the expansion of US influence in culture and commerce as well as politics towards what Henry Luce in 1941 (in)famously summed up as an "American Century." My central example is a work that itself seeks to remember. T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land can be grasped as the attempt to capture and transport the whole of Western tradition, as its author essentially argues in "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (1919). This ambition has contributed to making The Waste Land canonical. The poem is at the same time controversial. It is often taken as the expression of a will to elitist classicism. More consistently, its status as an example of 'American' modernist writing is contentious because the 'Americanness' of its composition, as well as its composer, seems so much in question.

The presentation aims to approach this question not by confirming a fundamental disassociation from American culture, nor by mining the poem for what Eric Siggs has referred to as Eliot's "deep American past" (The American T.S. Eliot 1989, vii). Key references are rather to processes of affiliation and tactical procedures. What at first appraisal seems a supranational poem removed from the questions of nation, reveals itself upon closer scrutiny to be fundamentally connected to techne of transnational connection that take on national colorings at the beginning of the century. Specifically, I would suggest that Eliot's tactical affiliations with the 'American' have much to do with how he taps into "cartography-traversing technologies" such as the radio or gramophone and the popular art forms they transport. His initial draft of the poem begins with variations of ragtime: a form of word and sound reproduction that remixes known elements into new rhythms. The young Eliot jokingly described American popular music as a means to culturally uplift the Oxbridge natives (The Letters of T.S. Eliot 1898-1922, 80). In his career-making poem he use the form to reconfigure or re-remember the valued cultural past in a transformed tact: "O O O O that Shakespearian Rag---" (128).

Ramazani's revisionist program for a "newer" Modernist Studies participates in a wider desire to pluralize modernism's canons, think beyond its usual suspects, and, most certainly, move discussions beyond the narrative of heroic artistic exceptionalism that shaped accounts of modernism even under the aegis of the form-fixated New Criticism. These goals dialogue well with those of recent American Studies that, in a similar way, aim to push inquiry beyond established routes and figures. As key players in this enterprise such as Donald Pease and John Carlos Rowe tirelessly underscore, this mode of "newer" American Studies offers the possibility of thinking American cultural history "post-nationally" in the sense of moving beyond standard national narratives of achievement, representability, and exception. Closer analysis of a canonical, if controversial text such as The Waste Land, I would propose, suggests that many of these narratives are already complicated in the texts that "newer" scholarly efforts strive to move beyond. The Waste Land in particular interweaves national understandings within transnational flows that both direct our attention to the vicissitudes of national belonging and its ways of remembering in a global modern condition.

Clemens Spahr
"The Global Poetics of Twentieth-Century Italian American Poetry"

It is frequently assumed that the turn to transnationalism is a very recent theoretical phenomenon. However, a closer look at the history of American poetry shows that a number of poets have been were very much aware that literary production is always involved in processes of global cultural and social exchange and thus have prefigured contemporary theorizations of how poetry transcends national boundaries and partakes of a ‘world of literature.’ An especially important point in case is the international poetics of the rarely anthologized Italian American Modernist tradition. This paper will show that twentieth-century Italian American poets such as Arturo Giovannitti, Vincent Ferrini, John Ciardi, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti combine a global, international poetics with a particular, local political practice. For early Italian American writers such as Giovannitti the internationalist culture was intimately tied to the politics of the 1910s and 1920s. Giovannitti describes New York as a cosmopolitan metropolis whose “harbor [...] swallows the nations,” expressing the subsumption of national traditions under a cosmopolitan cultural vision, while this cosmopolitanism simultaneously informs his local cultural and political practices. Similarly, later Italian American poets – even though more detached from their cultural heritage – would conceive of their writings as a response to a changing world-system. And yet, while these authors’ conception of poetry, culture, and politics was international and transcended national borders, they simultaneously addressed the particularities and peculiarities of the nation, thus mediating the local and the global.

Anna Szczepan-Wojnarska
"A European on an American coast. Czesław Miłosz’s American adventure"

“I am ‘A Child of Europe'", admitted Milosz while accepting Nobel prize in Literature in 1980 by using the phrase that has been the title of one of his poems. Despite bitterness and sarcasm of such announcement living almost forty years in the US the poet manifested constantly his European background. For all these years he served as a cultural mediator between Poland and the US and more broadly between Europe and America. A poet, translator, and prose writer, Miłosz was firstly an cultural attaché of Peoples Republic of Poland, later on a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1961 to 1998. He has undertaken various initiatives promoting mutual understanding nevertheless translation activity remained his priority, that will be proved with many examples of translation of American poetry into Polish, Polish poetry into English and self-translations. In self-translation he was shaping his ideas, his art, and his image for different audiences and even as this was always an intensely collaborative project, he saw himself as the ultimate translator of his own work. In my presentation I shall analyze an imaginary paradigm of Miłosz’s poetry as typically European, immersed in the intertextual net of European literature and history. America remained for him the strange country for various reasons which I attempt to identify, however in my opinion that was his deliberate choice to exist as a stranger. As born in the borderlands of Poland he remained deprived of his childhood country for ever because of the course of history therefore exile became his destiny. America enabled Miłosz to find balance in his judgments on Europe and Poland, to rephrase himself from the discourse of the Polish traumas victim to an worldly acknowledged intellectualist.

Complete Download

Download PDF