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February 13, 2007

Cynghanedd and the Englyn

Follow-up to Objectivism from ZoŽ Brigley: Teaching Blog


PLEASE NOTE: I have now posted a detailed guide to all the Welsh forms. This is a series of four parts that covers:
Cynghanedd ;
• the Englyn ;
• the Cywydd ;
• and the Awdl .

It is interesting to consider poetry that concentrates more on the music of the line and language than the actual meaning. Cynghanedd and the englyn are Welsh forms of poetry that do just this. There is a very good webite on these forms at the Kalliope Website or you could buy Mererid Hopwood’s excellent book, Singing in Chains .

Meanwhile, here is a very basic explanation. The Welsh poetic line often uses Cynghanedd (meaning Harmony) or as it is sometimes known, Canu Caeth (Captured Song). Here are a few kinds. There are more on the Kalliope website.

1. Cynghanedd Lusg (Drag Harmony)

Here the second syllable and first syllable of the penultimate word rhyme.

eg. The great man and his irate wife…

2. Cynghanedd Sain (Tonal Harmony)

Here there is a development of a sound from the first main word to the second main word and the second main word chimes slightly differently with the third main word:

e.g. The passion will fashion the fascists.

3. Cyngahnedd Drychben (Chief Mirror Harmony)

Here there is a kind of mirroring of consonant sounds.

Spaghetti westerns, spies, ghettos, whist turns.
sp gh t w st rns / sp gh t w st rns


A Simple Form of Englyn

The englyn is another form of syllabic poetry. Written in a verse of four lines, it contains thirty syllables and is usually organised in the following pattern:

Line 1: 10 syllables
Line 2: 6 syllables
Line 3: 6 syllables
Line 4: 7 syllables

The seventh or eighth syllable of line 1 rhymes with the last syllables of lines 2-3. There should also be a rhyme/chime between the last syllable of line one and syllable 2/3 of line 2. There is usually cynghanedd in the lines too.

Here is an example:

R. Williams-Parry
O ryfedd dorf ddi-derfysg y meirwon
 gwymon yn gymysg!
Parlyrau’r perl, erwau’r pysg
Yw bedd disgleirdeb addysg.

In Memoriam – to a sailor
In a strange, unclamorous host, the dead
And the seaweed tangle;
Pearl parlours, acres of fish
Are tomb to learning’s splendour.

But you don’t really get a sense of the wonderful sounds if you don’t understand the Welsh, so here is an englyn that I have been working on in English. It bends some of the rules but it may give you a sense of the effect that I want you to aim for:

Zoë Brigley
The Wives’ Englyn to Malinche
Amidst raw livers rives stumped cedar,
livened knot of knitted hives;
branches sing of broaching scythes,
prizes stung by priesting wives.


Further Reading
Cywydd and Cynghanedd
General Characteristics of Welsh Poetry
JP Ward on Cynghanedd



objects – music – shapes

The poet, Louis Zukofsky, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1904. He came from Lithuanian-Jewish origins and later he went on to study at Columbia University, NY, completing his MA in 1924. He taught at the University of Wisconsin during 1930s Objectivist movement. Throughout his life he was a teacher, writer and editor.

The Objectivist movement had a number of aims which included:
• To write poems in which the form also made the same case as the content.
• To reinvigorate the word which had been degraded by a culture that lacked awareness of how words were arranged.
• To experiment with form and syntax, language on the page and visual poetry.
Poets who had some connection to the Objectivist movement include: Ezra Pound, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, William Carlos Williams, Carl Rakosi, Kenneth Rexroth, Basil Bunting and E.E. Cummings.

The text is the range of pleasure it affords as sight, sound and intellection. —Louis Zukofsky

Interestingly, one focus of Zukofsky’s poetry was its musicality. See the following extract from Peter Jones’ essay which can be read in full at: http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=6388

The poem becomes a score. As he [Zukofsky] abandons metaphor, symbol and connotation in language, meaning takes a subordinate place. The clearest example of this approach is in his Catullus, prepared in collaboration with his wife (1969). His ‘translations’ of Catullus are into a language that attempts in his words to ‘breathe the “literal” meaning with him’. – Peter Jones

From Catullus’ poem CXII:
Multus homo es, Naso, neque tecum multus homost qui
descendit: Naso, multus es et pathicus.

Swanson’s translation:
You’re a made man, Naso, nor is he who lays you made:
you’re a made man, Naso, and a — maid.

Zukofsky’s version:
Mool ‘tis homos’ ‘Naso, ‘n’ queer take ‘im mool ‘tis ho most he
descended: Naso, mool’tis — is it pathic, cuss.

Which is nearer the Latin? But that begs the question: what is Latin? What do we mean by ‘being nearer’? The larger question Zukofsky has spent a lifetime probing is, What is language? – Peter Jones

So it seems that Zukofsky is more interested in the music than the literal meaning of the poem, although his translation of Catullus does convey something of the original message, doesn’t it? Michael Schmidt writes of this tendency in The Lives of the Poets describing Zukofsky’s ‘music’ as ‘the poem as score rather than realisation of score’.

February 12, 2007

Rita Dove on the Literary Family

Rita Dove

I feel a part of a literary family, a community of both living and dead poets. In the way of families, I may argue vehemently with other relatives sometimes, but empathy-the fact of inclusion-is always there… I remember discovering Langston Hughes in an anthology when I wsa in my teens and reading a poem like Dream Boogie , where the language leaps all over the page, and recognizing a part of my life that I hadn’t ever encountered in a poem before. That recognition is incredibly vital to my personal and spiritual identity.

February 09, 2007

What is L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry?

Writing about web page http://www.princeton.edu/eclipse/projects/LANGUAGE/language.html

Radi os

L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Manifesto
• To question conventional attitudes to speech and referentiality.
• To use the influence of Louis Zukofsky as a model.
• To use the influence of Gertrude Stein (remember language divorced from its reference – silences!!).
• To react to Wittgenstein’s ideas of language as a game.

L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Magazines
• This Magazine ed. Robert Grenier and Barratt Witten.
• L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E ed. Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein. (Archive at: http://www.princeton.edu/eclipse/projects/LANGUAGE/language.html)
• Reality Street Editions at http://freespace.virgin.net/reality.street/editor.html

Some L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poets
Rae Armnentrout ~ Charles Bernstein ~ Clarke Coolidge ~ Tina Darragh ~ Ken Edwards (UK) ~ Allen Fisher (UK) ~ Carla Harryman ~ Lyn Hejinian ~ Fanny Howe ~ Susan Howe ~ Michael Palmer ~ Bob Perlman ~ Leslie Scalapino ~ Ron Silliman (See Silliman’s blog: http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/ ) ~ Hannah Weiner

Charles Bernstein and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry
“words are notes on the keys of the imagination” – Wittgenstein

In his poem, ‘Solidarity is a Name We Give to That We Cannot Hold’, Bernstein’s speaker declares himself to be affiliated with many different kinds of poets:

I am a nude formalist poet, a sprung
syntax poet, a multitrack poet, a
wondering poet, a social expressionist
poet, a Baroque poet, a constructivist poet,
an ideolectical poet. […]

The entire poem is made up of different factions, groupings and definitions for poets and amongst these Bernstein lists his status as “a Jewish poet hiding in the shadow / of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother”, a stereotype that views Jewish writers as turning back to the great patriarchs and matriarchs of that culture. However, its inclusion amongst all the other definitions of poets reveals how this means of self-definition is as limiting as any other.

The desire to resist the standardized language that homogenizes individuals is an essential part of Bernstein’s poetics. Like the Marx Brothers, Bernstein disagrees with ‘standardization’ of language describing it in ‘Comedy and the Poetics of Political Form’ (1990) as a kind of “arteriosclerosis”. Bernstein’s answer is a kind of play that “collapses into a more ambivolent[sic] , destabilizing field of pathos, the ludicrous, schtick, sarcasm; a multidimensional textual field that is congenitally unable to maintain an evenness of surface tension or a flatness of affect, where linguistic shards of histrionic inappropriateness pierce the momentary calm of an obscure twist of phrase, before cantoring[sic] into the next available trope; less a shield than a probe”. He continues: “If my loops and short circuits, my love of elision, my Groucho Marxian refusal of irony is an effort to explode the authority of those conventions I wish to discredit (disinherit), it constantly offers the consoling self–justification of Art” . Yet Bernstein emphasises that this must not be self–centered but an “interaction”, “conversation” or “provocation”. Bernstein reaches towards the syncopated, the polyrhythmical, the heterogeneous and the offbeat, because, for too long, what he calls ‘male’, patriarchal language has made people speak “to those aspects of their consciousness that have been programmed to receive the already digested scenes or commentaries provided”. The ellipsis, the non-sequitur and the irrelevancy are all significant elements in this linguistic reinvention.

Bernstein’s View

The distortion is to imagine that knowledge has an “object” outside of the “language games” of which it is a part—that words refer to “transcendental signified” to use an expression from another tradition, rather than being part of a language which itself produces meaning in terms of its grammar, its conventions and its “agreements in judgement”. Learning a language is not learning the names of things outside a language, as if it were simply a matter of matching up signifiers with signifieds, as if signifieds already existed and we were just learning new names for them [...] Rather we are initiated by language into a socious, which is for us the world. So that the foundations of knowledge are not so much based on a pre–existing empirical world as on shared conventions and mutual attunement. -Charles Bernstein in Boundary 2 (Vol IX, No. 2, 1981) 295–306.

Writing necessarily consists of attaching numerous bits and pieces together in a variety of ways. & it comes to a point here you feel any composition is artifice and deceit. & the more ‘natchural’ the look the more deceptive. That any use of language outside its function of communicating in speaking is a false hood (cf. Laura Riding). Or even that language itself—everywhere conditioning our way of seeing & meaning— is an illusion (as if there were something outside language.
‘Or take it this way: I just want to write—let it come out— get in touch with some natural process—from brain to pen—with no interference of typewriter, formal pattern. & it can seem like the language itself—having to put it into words— any kind of fixing a version of it—gets in the way. That I just have this thing inside me—silently—unconditioned by the choices I need to make when I write—whether it be to write it down or write on. So it is as if language itself gets in the way of expressing this thing, this flow, this movement of consciousness.

But there are no thoughts except through language, we are everywhere seeing through it, limited to it but not by it. Its conditions always interpose themselves: a particular set of words to choose from (a vocabulary), a way of processing those words (syntax, grammar): the natural conditions of language. What pulses, pushes, is energy, spirit, anima, dream, fantasy: coming out always in form, as shape: these particulars, ‘massed at material bottoms’ in hum of this time—here now—these words, this syntax & rhythm & shape. The look of the natural as constricted, programmatic—artful—’lying words’ as the most abstract, composed or formal work.– Charles Bernstein in ‘Stray Straws and Straw Men’.

February 08, 2007


                                   Rose Garden by Klee

a rose is a rose is a rose

In ‘Explaining a rose is a rose is a rose’, Gertrude Stein commends a poetics of silence in that she demands an absence of ‘worn out literary words’. (54) She writes about how the poet must ‘work in the excitingness of pure being; he has to get back that intensity into the language’. Ironically, in ‘hundreds of poems about roses [...] you know in your bones that the rose is not there’ yet in ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’, Stein claims that ‘the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years’. (54 – 55) An absence of description becomes a presence.

Stein is sometimes accused of being obscure and nonsensical. Even her editor, AJ Fifield found her experimental style challenging. When rejecting one of her submissions, he wrote:

I am only one, only one, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your manuscript three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

However, you might like to examine the quotations below. What meanings can you discover in them? How large is the space for interpretation? How do you feel about the use of vocabulary and subversion of grammatical rules?

A silence is no more than occasional. It respects understanding and salt and even a rope. (‘France’)

Silence which makes silence gives that sense to all there is, silence which has light and water and vision and appetite and result and a motion and more exaggeration and no recklessness, silence which is there is not disturbed by expression. (‘France’)

What comes out of silence. What comes out of silence is that which having usefulness, that nature and fashion is not shown to be managed by the combination. (‘France’)

Surely silence is sustained and the change is sudden.(‘England’)

Silence is so windowful. (What Happened)

Gertrude Stein

by Mina Loy


of the laboratory

of vocabulary

she crushed

the tonnage

of consciousness

congealed to phrases

to extract

a radium of the word.

Nothing Elegant

by Gertrude Stein

A charm a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.

Poetry and Culture

The Dutch Settlers by J M Basquiet

Read these quotations and you might like to consider the questions that follow:

Even today the culture industry dresses works of art like political slogans and forces them on a resistant public at reduced prices; they are as accessible for public enjoyment as a park. […] Culture is a paradoxical commodity. So completely is it subject to the law of exchange that it can no longer be exchanged; it is so blindly consumed in use that it can no longer be used. -Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment

Thinkers like Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, and E.P. Thompson came to see culture as a means of resistance to capitalism. If illiteracy was a way of keeping the poor and working people away from intellectual instruments that might impel rebellion, literacy in the form of clandestine pamphlets and underground newspapers was a way of maintaining alternative perspectives to those demanded by the progress of industrial capitalism and the subsumption of the population by factory labor. -Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, “The Politics of Culture”

[…] to take up arms to dominate a people is, above all, to take up arms to destroy, or at least to neutralise, to paralyse its cultural life. […] This for example is the case with the so-called theory of progressive assimilation of native populations, which turns out to be only a more or less violent attempt to deny the culture of the people in question. -Amilcar Cabralcar, Return to the Source

Look at the images in the Zionist films of the thirties: the land is always displayed as empty. Insofar as Arabs are present, they are acknowledged only as camels and keepers walking across the screen at one moment or another to supply a kind of exotic local colour: This is not a field in the Ukraine, this is the exotic East. […] And the same idea occurs in America: the pioneering spirit, errand into the wilderness, the obliteration of another society, and the continual sense of enterprise, that enterprise is good for its own sake, especially because a Book says so. It doesn’t matter that the enterprise means killing people, bombing apartment houses, emptying villages. But it’s enterprise of a particular kind, the kind associated with new settler society. And with it goes a tremendous hostility to traditional societies which are posited as backward, primitive, reactionary, and so on: Islam for example. -Edward Said, Power, Politics and Culture

It is the outward looking, expansive gaze which makes possible the interaction with a ‘significant other’, a foreign culture in which gifts for the future of one’s own culture may be located, and in which an illuminating reflection of one’s own identity (or desired identity) may be glimpsed. That foreign culture may be geographically or linguistically or temporarily ‘other’ or a combination of these. -Robert Crawford, Identifying Poets

How to tear a minor literature away from its own language, allowing it to challenge the language and making it follow a sober revolutionary path? How to become a nomad and an immigrant [...] in relation to one’s own language? -Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature


• How can poets and poetry reach the ordinary citizen and to what end?
• How does poetry help define or redefine “community” or “culture”, a term that has lost meaning and significance by virtue of its overuse?
• Can poetry transform suffering? Can it be useful in creating unity; does it have value as a tool for change?
• How has poetry influenced various kinds of communities—the disabled, the oppressed, the incarcerated, the gifted, the professional, and the cleric—by way of insight, balm, or transcendence?
• What role does poetry play in defining identities and concerns of ethnic groups within a given community?
• How do poets help to make silent voices heard, and what other opportunities do we have to bring poetry to the public?

February 02, 2007

Poetry and Politics


Denys Thompson’s The Uses of Poetry: ‘Patriotism and Politics’ notes that poetry has always had a political purpose in human societies. There were eulogies that strengthened the position of a tribal leader by glorifying deeds in war. There were war songs that enticed people to fight enemies, but it was also believed in early times that the songs could bring destruction to their enemies by means of spells and curses. Poems of nation or culture have existed fro a long time, their role being to preserve the identity and maintain the continuity of those groups or nations under threat. Finally there is propaganda. This kind of writing has a short term purpose – a change of government or the relief of a wrong – and the poet does not necessarily believe in what he is saying. Rather the poet may be a hireling working for an individual group.

However, some critics, poets and theorists do believe that the poem has the potential to be a powerful political too. Julia Kristeva states: ‘The text [i.e. poetry] is a practice that could be compared to political revolution’. Below, I present a number of view of poets and critics on the relationship between poetry and politics. Read them and then study the questions below:

When literary doctrines or manifestos become pawns in politically motivated power-games, then poetry is forced to yield up its essentially symbolic, apolitical nature. – Anne Stevenson in ‘Defending the Freedom of the Poet’, Contemporary British Women’s Poetry.

It is impossible for anybody who wants to write a poetry that is politically revolutionary to write in the way that most poems in Britain are written. […] It means that a lot of poetry today will look like adverts. It sells not a product (“Right for baby, right for you”) but a moral (“What survives of us is love”). -Robert Sheppard in ‘The Education of Desire’, Ship of Fools.

I came out first as a political poet, even before The Dream of a Common Language, under the taboo against so-called political poetry in the US, which was comparable to the taboo against homosexuality. In other words, it wasn’t done. And this is, of course, the only country in the world where that has been true. Go to Latin America, to the Middle East, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe, and you find the political poet and a poetry that addresses public affairs and public discourse, conflict, oppression, and resistance. That poetry is seen as normal. And it is honored. – Adrienne Rich

This OBE thing is supposed to be for my services to literature, but there are a whole lot of writers who are better than me, and they’re not involved in the things that I’m involved in. All they do is write; I spend most of my time doing other things. If they want to give me one of these empire things, why can’t they give me one for my work in animal rights? Why can’t they give me one for my struggle against racism? What about giving me one for all the letters I write to innocent people in prisons who have been framed? I may just consider accepting some kind of award for my services on behalf of the millions of people who have stood up against the war in Iraq. It’s such hard work – much harder than writing poems. – Benjamin Zephaniah

Certainly among a number of our writers, ‘radical’ and otherwise, a crude new notion of decorum has developed. One speaks harshly of harsh realities, brutally of brutalities, one tells it how it is and finds in one’s responses to the subject matter the idiom of the poem. That is, one leaves as little distance as possible between the poem’s idiom and the poet’s initial response to subject matter. One capitulates, not to the subject matter (as the Imagist would try to do) but to one’s first response to it. This is conceived of as poetic truth: to sacrifice perspective to the immediate tone of response, regardless of the context — temporal, spatial, ethical — of that response. The extreme subjectivity and the ultimate irresponsibility of such capitulation to ‘self’ excludes the reader from the experience of anything but the poet experiencing, the poet responding. -Michael Schmidt on the Politics of Form

The welding together of poetry and politics becomes the art of recognising an appropriate level of language. For instance, factional politics (Party or issue-based politics) is infamous for mishandling and degrading the language. Those who place Mayakovsky above Mendelstam fall into the trap of mistaking Mayakovsky’s dogmatism for certainty. Mandelstam was far more certain — the purpose and precision of his imagery shows his mind was locked onto the world like a laser. -David Morley on Poets, Politics, Etcetera, Etcetera

• How can a poem influence political change?
• Can you think of any examples of poems that have influenced political change? E.g. war poetry, feminist poetry etc.
• Is writing politically putting the integrity of poetry in danger?
• Should it remain apolitical as Anne Stevenson suggests?
• Can political poetry be too didactic?
• Is the message or the poem more important?
• If the tricks of poetic language are being appropriated by media forms like advertising, how can we ensure that it retains its integrity?
• Can there be politics in the use of poetic form?

This is Not A Pipe: Magritte’s Belief in Undecidability

Magritte - Key to the Interpretation of Dreams

In Les Mots et Les Images, Magritte notes that ‘everything tends to make us think that there is very little connection between an object and what represents it’ and that ‘an object never fulfils the same function’. Influenced by the Surrealist movement that was emerging from Paris, Magritte’s art began to play with the notion of language, representation and art. Most infamous is his painting of a pipe with the caption ‘This is not a pipe’. The painting emphasises that a picture of a pipe and the real object are not the same thing thus undoing a more traditional, mimetic motivation in art.

Andre Souris talking of Surrealist thought labelled the word as ‘ a highly combustible object’. Magritte emphasised that words and images must be freed from ‘the obsessional urge to give meaning to things so as to use them or dominate them’.

In his art, Magritte provides attentive analysis of the arbitrary nature of language. Like Wittgenstein, Magritte believes that language is made up of games rather than acting as a picture of facts. Knowing the words that make up a language is not the same as speaking or writing in it. A player may know the name of the chess pieces – rook, castle, queen – yet this does not necessarily mean that s/he will be able to play. Words have uses and these uses are dictated by the rules of the game. Neither Wittgenstein nor Magritte would have agreed with the simplistic understanding of language as words that stand for some thing. This view would ignore the rules of language and how it is used in patterns of use.

Magritte’s word-pictures provide a commentary on language and art and they seem to suggest to us that pictorial representation and verbal description work in much the same manner. Just as words are symbols so are pictures and importantly, pictures need not necessarily resemble what they represent. Representation can be arbitrary and almost anything can be used as a sign.

In art, a finished work may bear little resemblance to its subject. When Picasso was asked about his portrait of Gertrude Stein and told that it did not resemble her, he replied ‘No matter, it will’. Here is the conflict between resemblance and representation.

We usually attribute resemblance to things which may or may not have a common nature. We say ‘as alike as two peas in a pod’ and we say, just as easily, that the fake resembles the authentic. This so-called resemblance consists of relations of comparison, whose similarities are perceived by the mind when it examines, evaluates and composes. Likeness is not concerned with ‘common sense’ or with defying it, but only with spontaneously assembling shapes from the world of appearance in an order given by inspiration. – René Magritte

Magritte based his word paintings on a child’s reading primer. The juxtaposition is startling and seems to reflect Baudelaire’s advocating of ‘that unexpected element, strangeness , the condiment indispensable to all beauty’. In Magritte, strangeness is linked to the mysterious play of undecidability in representation.

Further Links for Imagism and Surrealism

Balakian, Anna. Surrealism and the Road to the Absolute. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1972. (PQ 443.S8)

Caws, Mary Ann. The Poetry of Dada and Surrealism: Aragon, Breton, Tzara, Eluard and Desnos. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970. (PQ 443.S8)

Gascoyne, David. A Short Survey of Surrealism. Lodnon: Frank Cass, 1970. (PQ 307.S8)

Germain, Edward B. ed. English and American Surrealist Poetry. London: Penguin, 1978. (PR 1228.S8)

Harmer, J.B. Victory in Limbo: Imagism 1908-1917. London: Secker and Warburg, 1975. (PR 605.I6)

Hughes, Glenn. Imagism and the Imagists: A Study in Modern Poetry. London: Bowes and Bowes, 1960. (PR 605.I6)

Matthews, J.H. ed. An Anthology of French Surrealist Poetry. London: University of London Press, 1966. (PQ 1193.S8) (See introduction, poems in French)

Matthews, J.H. Surrealism, Insanity and Poetry. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1982. (PQ 443.S8)

Matthews, J.H. Surrealist Poetry in France. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1969.

Also see:
Modern American Poetry

January 18, 2007

Confessional Poetry: Further Links

Confessional Poetry
Clare Pollard on Getting Poetry to Confess (This summarises some of the issues that we talked about this week, although Pollard seems to think that Kristeva invented the idea of ecriture feminine, when it was really Irigaray and Cixous).

Robert Lowell
Resources on Robert Lowell on Literature Online (You need your Athens username and password to log onto this site – ask one of the university librarians if you don’t have it already).
Info on Life Studies by Robert Lowell

John Berryman
Resources on John Berryman on Literature Online (Again you will need your Athens username and password).

Sylvia Plath
Resources on Sylvia Plath on Literature Online (Again you will need your Athens username and password).
Sylvia Plath Homepage
The Sylvia Plath Forum

Anne Sexton
Resources on Anne Sexton on Literature Online
Anne Sexton on the Modern American Poetry Website

Hugo Williams
On the Contemporary Writers Website
His Profile in The GuardianResources on Hugo Williams on Literature Online

Pascale Petit
Resources on Pascale Petit on Literature Online
Interview with Pascale Petit (You need to be logged in to see this interview).
My Own List of Web Resources on Pascale Petit
Information on the Warao Violin on my Blog
Pascale Petit’s website

January 16, 2007

Robert Bly's Eight Stages for Translations

Salvador Dali

Robert Bly’s approach to translation includes eight stages:

1. Creating a literal version of the poem.
2. Unpacking the meaning of certain foreign words and phrases, ensuring that these are understood properly.
3. Making the poem the best it can be in the English language.
4. Translating the poem into American English or spoken English: “the desperate living tone or fragrance that tells you a person now alive could have said the phrase”.
5. Ensuring that poem, changed as it is, is still true to the mood and of the original.
6. Paying attention to sound. (Bly recommends learning the poem by heart).
7. Ask a native speaker to assess your translation.
8. Providing the final draft and making final adjustments.

If you are writing a translation this week, would you add any other stages to Bly’s process? What stages would you suggest for writing an imitation or version of a foreign-language poem?

Selling the Poet?


We considered Chris Hamilton Emery’s view this week that the public buys poets not poetry. We looked at the text that he recommends: Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Some of you seemed to think that the selling and marketing of poetry was inevitable, while others seemed to disagree. The point of contention seemed to be whether marketing is a means of communicating with an audience or a gaudy publicity machine giving way to media values of sex and immediacy.

Take a look at this piece by Neil Astley: http://www.newstatesman.com/200610230043 In The New Statesman Astley suggests that making poetry accessible to the masses is important. What do you think? Compare this with views expressed by poetry publishers in The Argotist’s feature

Mirror Poems

Follow-up to Jacques Lacan and the Mirror Phase from ZoŽ Brigley: Teaching Blog

In the seminar this week, we looked at mirror poems by Lee Harwood, Paul Muldoon and Ian Mcmillan, but here are some others…

The Mirror by Edwin Morgan
(from Collected Poems)

There is a mirror only we can see.
It hangs in time and not in space. The day
goes down in it without ember or ray
and the newborn climb through it to be free.
The multitudes of the world cannot know
they are reflected there; like glass they lie
in glass, shadows in shade, they could not cry
in airless wastes but that is where they go.
We cloud it, but it pulses like a gem,
it must have caught a range of energies
from the dead. We breathe again; nothing shows.
Back in space, _ubi solitudinem
faciunt pacem appellant_. Ages
drum-tap the flattened homes and slaughtered rows.

Auferre trucidare rapere falsis nominis imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant. (They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace.) Spoken in Tacitus’ Agricola which tells of the life and death of a Roman general. The words are spoken by a British chieftain.

The Mirror on the Ceiling by Sinead Morissey
(from There Was A Fire in Vancouver)

I took it down two years ago, but he still comes knocking.
There was too much space in him.
I gave him everything on the outside—-
The long curve of my spine; arms, feet, thighs.
He was the actor and director of his own imagination,
Dying for every exterior. The moving
Crown of my head was the rising star in his heaven.

Never whole and never alone, I got to wanting it
Without sight of it. No show, no reflection—-
Not even in his eyes, which were so outside of himself,
So beside himself, so down on every last cell of himself—-
I craved for nothing but blind discretion.
He stands on my doorstep, pleading his lost barbiturate,
But the mirror is in the outhouse. I promise cobwebs, whitewash.

Moments of Vision by Thomas Hardy

That mirror
Which makes of men a transparency,
Who holds that mirror
And bids us such a breast-bare spectacle see
Of you and me?

That mirror
Whose magic penetrates like a dart,
Who lifts that mirror
And throws our mind back on us, and our heart,
until we start?

That mirror
Works well in these night hours of ache;
Why in that mirror
Are tincts we never see ourselves once take
When the world is awake?

That mirror
Can test each mortal when unaware;
Yea, that strange mirror
May catch his last thoughts, whole life foul or fair,
Glassing it—where?

Mirror by Sylvia Plath

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful –
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me.
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Jacques Lacan and the Mirror Phase


Another interesting idea that may have bearing on poetic identity is Jacques Lacan’s ‘mirror phase’. The ‘mirror phase’ represents the moment when the child recognises their own corporeal or bodily unity; it is a moment of identification – the child identifies with an image outside his or her self when viewing his image in a mirror or another child. Before this the child’s identity is often defined in relation to its close relationship with the mother in something that is called a mother-child dyad (dyad meaning a unit of two individuals).

After this recognition of the whole, separate selfhood, the child has a new mastery over its body. See Anthony Wilden’s summation of Jacques Lacan’s ideas here:

The “mirror phase” derives its name from the impact of mirror relationships in childhood. The significance of children’s attempts to appropriate or control their own image in a mirror is that their actions are symptomatic of these deeper relationships. Through his perception of the image of another human being, the child discovers a form…a corporeal unity, which is lacking to him at this particular stage of development…Lacan interprets the child’s fascination with the other’s image as an anticipation of his maturing to a future point of corporeal unity by identifying himself with this image. Although there are difficulties in Lacan’s expression of his views on this extremely significant phase of childhood, the central concept is clear: this primordial experience is symptomatic of what makes moi an Imaginary construct. The ego is…another self, and the stade du miroir is the source of all later identifications.

The ego is another self, a form constructed outside the self. Can this idea be extended to apply to the poetic persona?

Later in relation to the mirror phase, Lacan poses the idea of the symbolic that is the social, cultural and linguistic networks into which the child is born. Lacan believes that language is the arbiter of the child’s entire existence even before he or she is born. Although, the child is born without immediately grasping language, Lacan emphasises that the networks inherent in family and surroundings are already drawing the child into a symbolic order.

Later he begins to talk of the ego-ideal and the ideal ego. The ideal ego is the identity that you take on and the ego-ideal is the point from which you self-examine. Who is it that you construct your selfhood for? Who is your audience?

Some questions that arise here are as follows:
*Could there be a parallel between Lacan’s thought about the self and the writer’s construction of a poetic persona?
*Have you looked into the mirror and found unity as a poet?
*Have you severed the links with your maternal precursors and found a new mastery of your poetry?
*To what extent is your writing defined by the symbolic i.e. the cultural, social and linguistic networks into which you were born?
*To what extent is your poetic persona a construction created with a certain audience in mind? Can it truly be called ‘natural’?

Sonia Sanchez on Poetry and Politics

Sonia Sanchez

All poets, all writers are political. They either maintain the status quo, or they say, ‘Something’s wrong, let’s change it for the better.’ That’s what my life has really been about.

we are sudden stars
you and i exploding in
our blue black skins. -Sonia Sanchez

Edwin Honig on Poetry

Edwin Honig

A poet contributes to the development of the art of poetry by the magnitude or the implacable center [sic] of his vision and craft. The energy of his expression withstands close scrutiny, sustaining its power and effect over the years. Just as everyone owns his particular face and voice, so the major poet owns his own particular style and makes it do what he wishes it to do in a way that is rarely mistakable. For his manner of treating a subject invariably remakes it so that it appears to be presented for the first time.

-Edwin Honig

October 10, 2006

The Riddle of Devolutionary Identity: 18th November

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/postgrad/current/students/ensdav/research/devolutionary/

*CALL FOR PAPERS: The Riddle of Devolutionary Identity
A One-Day Interdisciplinary Conference
University of Warwick, Humanities Research Centre (HRC)
~ Saturday 18th November 2006*

With Papers and Poetry Readings Featuring:
Prof. Stephen Knight, Cardiff University.
Prof. Susan Bassnett, University of Warwick
Medbh McGuckian, poet and feminist writer.
David Morley, poet and director of the Warwick Writing Programme.

Image by Michael Woodford

This interdisciplinary conference will bring together academics working within the fields of postcolonial studies with regard to regions of Britain such as Scotland, Wales, Northern-Ireland, Cornwall or the North and to British cultures such as that of Islam or the Roma nations. The central aim is to tackle recent debates on whether cultural, social and psychological issues can be explored using post-colonial theory. The organizers welcome a variety of approaches: historical, sociological, linguistic, feminist and textual analysis.

The conference will deal with devolutionary identity in relation to three main themes:

 The End of Britishness
Kirtsti Bohata writes of Britishness as ‘a misleading label that disguises English cultural hegemony and a project of assimilation’. What are the pressures on Britishness? Can one think of contemporary English Literature as ‘devolutionary’ too?

 The Limits of the Postcolonial
Who is ‘excluded’ from Postcolonial Studies? Various minority groups seem to be under-represented within the field of postcolonial theory. We are interested in proposals concerning British regions, but we would also welcome papers on the relatively neglected literatures of peoples such as Native Americans, Australian Aborigines and South Pacific Islanders, Indo-Caribbeans, the Roma nations of Europe. What is the current situation regarding hegemonic structures within the discourse of postcoloniality?

 Difference and Complicity
In their definition of a minor literature, Deleuze and Guattari suggest that in order for a minor culture to represent itself it must subvert a major language by deterritorializing that language and imbuing it with a minor tradition. Are devolutionary literatures subversive and radical in subverting linguistic tradition or are they more complicit with hegemonic Western values?

Negotiations are also being made for the publication of the proceedings of the conference.Delgates attending the conference will receive a free special ‘devolutionary identity’ issue of the Heaventree Press’ magazine, Avocado, featuring work by Medbh McGuckian, Michael Gardiner, Robert Minhinnick and others. See the Heaventree Press’ website for more information about the magazine: www.heaventreepress.co.uk

Deadline for Abstracts: 28th October 2006
Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words for 15 – 20 minute papers. Please send by e-mail (in the e-mail body or by attached Word document) to: Zoë Brigley (Z.Brigley.2@warwick.ac.uk) and Jonathan Morley (jonmorley79@hotmail.com) For details on how to register for the conference, please contact Sue Dibben: HRC@warwick.ac.uk

Picture by Michael Woodford.

Undergraduate Literature and Creative Writing Conference (undergrad) (11/30/06; 2/19/07)

Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania (50 minutes north of Harrisburg) invites undergraduate scholars and writers to participate in its third annual Undergraduate Literature and Creative Writing Conference, February 19, 2007. The conference is free of charge.

The keynote speaker this year is Michael Bérubé, Paterno Family Professor in Literature at Pennsylvania State University. The poet John Hoppenthaler, will conclude the conference with an evening reading.

Undergraduate scholars conducting research on any literary topic, and creative writers working in any genre, are welcome to present their work. Scholarship can take any number of forms: studies of individual authors or groups of authors, individual works or groups of works, literary history, literary form, the relationship between culture, politics, and literature, or the production, circulation and reception of literature. All types of literature and all methods of study, interdisciplinary approaches included, are welcome. Creative writing can also take any number of forms, including poetry, prose fiction and non-fiction, and literary journalism.

To be considered for the conference, undergraduates should submit either a 300-word abstract of a scholarly paper or a work of creative writing appropriate for a 15-minute presentation. The deadline for submissions is November 30, 2006.

Please email submissions as an MS Word attachment to englishdept@susqu.edu.

Please include complete contact information and college or university affiliation. In the subject line of the email, please indicate:
Conference: [Title of Paper].

For more information email englishdept@susqu.edu or call 570-372-4196.

September 27, 2006

Academic Writing Sessions for Literature Students

Academic Writing Sessions in Terms 1 and 3.

1. Sessions for UG students on

v seminar presentations

v critical thinking

v working with sources

v exam preparation

v planning and structuring a long essay

Details are listed online at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/writingprog/expowriting/english/

2. Sessions for MA students

Students wishing to apply to write an MA dissertation are required to attend three proposal writing workshops. These aim to encourage students to think carefully about their proposal and to discuss its feasibility and intellectual contribution with members of staff and peers. We will meet, for one-hour sessions, in the Graduate Space at 12:00 noon in weeks 2,3 and 4.

Details can be found at:


3. Essay writing handbook is now online


4. RLF fellows’ timetable

William Palmer: Mondays and Tuesdays (term time for 3 terms)

Anita Mason: Wednesdays and Thursdays (term time for 3 terms)

The Fellows will be in room H421. As usual students should leave their sample of writing in the folder outside room H421 by 10:00 am and sign up for a consultation on the same day.

September 26, 2006

Online Literature

As a result of a generous grant from Indiana State University, Snow*Vigate Press will be publishing a printed anthology of the best on-line writing which has appeared over the past ten years. Hopefully the anthology will be released in August 2007.

The book will include poetry broken into lines, prose poetry, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, and 10 minute plays. If you would like to nominate your own on-line work or work from others, please follow these guidelines:

Paste the URLs of 3-7 pieces of each writer in the body of an email. You may nominate up to 3 writers. In the subject line of your email, please type “Submission to Snow*Vigate Anthology.” Send all submissions to dougmartin832@yahoo.com.

Work from any on-line site is acceptable, as long as it has not been published in printed form.

Editors of on-line journals are strongly encouraged to submit work from their sites. The submission period will end on October 15, 2006.

If you have any questions, please contact me.


Doug Martin