Monday, May 9, 2011

First Look: Poetry After Cultural Studies

The University of Iowa Press has just released its Fall 2011 catalog of new titles which features, among other things, Poetry after Cultural Studies (pictured to the left)—a collection of eight essays which "showcases the unexpectedly rich intersection of cultural studies theory and current poetry scholarship," which "reflects on what poetry can accomplish in the broadest social and cultural contexts," and which is glossed near the bottom of the catalog page in the following manner:

Edward J. Brunner on James Norman Hall
Alan Ramon Clinton on Sylvia Plath
Maria Damon on the pleasures of mourning
Margaret Loose on Chartism
Cary Nelson on postcards of WWI
Carrie Noland on Edouard Glissant
Angela Sorby on birding in America
Barrett Watten on poetry, music, and political culture

James Norman Hall? Plath and electricity? The pleasures of mourning? Birding in America? We here at P&PC thought you might like a little more to go on than that. So, relying on our connections in the biz, calling in a few favors, and greasing the palms of a slightly less than confidential informant, we've managed to score an exclusive preview of this collection which examines a wide variety of poetry in Europe, the U.S. and the Caribbean from the past 150 years. Doing his repartee and his shuffle and breakdown, our shifty-eyed C.I. mentioned newspapers, postcards, protest music, field guides and cross-stitches before vanishing with his rhymes into the good night from which he came. It was a fast sneak-peek, yes, but we managed to scribble down a few fugitive sentences of each essay to tempt your aesthetic taste buds and give you something to mark down for your holiday reading and gift lists. Here's what we know:

Edward Brunner, Writing Another Kind of Poetry: James Norman Hall as Fern Gravel in Oh Millersville!

"The fact that Hall himself has no reputation as a poet and is known primarily through his collaboration with James Nordhoff on the best-selling trilogy Mutiny on the Bounty (1932), Pitcairn's Island (1934), and Men against the Sea (1934) has not helped enable Oh Millersville!'s circulation. Yet in its time, Hall's stunt was a virtuosic feat that deceived book reviewers in Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, and dozens of other publications, all of which ignored such giveaway moments as the startling rhyme of "Whittier's / this verse" to celebrate the disinterment of a forgotten cache of Americana."

Alan Ramón Clinton, Sylvia Plath and Electracy

"Coin- cidentally, [Plath's collection] The Colossus bears the same name as the computer [Alan] Turing built in 1943 to decode German war transmissions, although Turing's machine remained so secret that the American ENIAC (1946) held the undisputed title as the world's first digital computer until the 1970s. Nevertheless, Plath finds herself, in the volume's title poem (CP 129–130), facing a problem similar to the one faced by the narrator of 'Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams,' an archive that can only be properly implemented and accessed via digital means: 'I shall never get you put together entirely, / Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.'"

Maria Damon, Pleasures of Mourning: A Yessay on Poetries in Out-of-the-Way Places

"My own multiple positioning (as poetry scholar, sometime producer of micropoetries, witness/participant, friend, and human-facing-mortality) is not experienced (by me) as disjunct, but I struggle, not to write but to conform, to move from one register of discourse to another in the essay in ways that don't alienate a scholarly readership; however, rather than smoothing out signs of these formal and processual disjunctions in the completed work, I prefer to let the awkwardnesses stand as a way of embodying the messy puzzlement, the unfinishedness, the ephemeral nature of micropoetries, and any human life-course, remembrance of which is then the object of elegiac activity."

Margaret A. Loose, Poetic, Popular, or Political? Chartism and the Fate of Political Poetry

"[Ernest] Jones, who had only recently emerged from his two-year incarceration for Chartist agitation, includes with the advertisement [for his recent book] a statement describing the harsh conditions of the poems' composition and affirming that 'upon them I stake my reputation as an author, and my character as a man' ('Ernest Jones' 64). Given the significance that the agonizing circumstances of their writing would confer on them, his explicit reliance on them as the proof of his authorship and character, and his advertising them in the hope of a large readership, this paragraph near the end of the announcement comes as a rather startling surprise: 'These will, probably, be among the last of my poetical works, for harder and sterner toils now call me to the field. The age has passed, when nations can be SUNG into liberty: perhaps it is well—for enthusiasm is the child of an hour—conviction is the father of centuries' ('Ernest Jones' 64)."

Cary Nelson, Only Death Can Part Us: Messages on Wartime Cards

"I have assembled an archive of wartime popular poems—on over 10,000 cards, postcards, envelopes, and miniature broadsides designed for personal exchange rather than public display—to gain access to the roles poetry played in the lives of the mostly lower-class and middle-class people who provided battlefield cannon fodder and home-front victims of modern war. These documents often include a preprinted poem and a holograph message. The poems vary widely in length, with some folding cards printing poems of thirty to forty lines, but the largest number of cards with messages have short verses of two to four lines."

Carrie Noland, Édouard Glissant: A Poetics of the Entour

"[T]he nature of one's relationship to land- scape—not just flora and fauna but also hillside ('morne'), river, and sea—is an issue of particular concern to inhabitants of the colonial and postcolonial Caribbean for whom reference points, coordinates for the construction of maps, are fragile and therefore vulnerable to destabilization. Édouard Glissant, the Martiniquan poet, novelist, playwright, and theorist who is the focus of this essay, remains characteristic in this regard; like [Henri] Stéhlé, Glissant is intrigued by the question of a people's relation to landscape, or what he calls—significantly for our purposes—their 'entour.' For him, as for the geographers who have studied the Caribbean, it is clear that Martinique, the place, is a historical construction, the product of imperialist phantasms that have carved up terrain, decimated and replaced populations, and forged intercontinental relationships that have little relation to the island's previous human history."

Angela Sorby, The Poetics of Bird Defense in America, 1860–1918

"[P]oems [about birds] came to adjudicate between romanticism and realism, enabling readers to think about nature both metaphorically (as a reflection of the self or the divine) and scientifically (as a mutable and potentially endangered ecosystem). As they circulated, American bird poems became part of a cultural conversation about conserving the natural world, while also bridging the gap between metaphorical reading and concrete scientific—or even political—action."

Barrett Watten, On the Advantages of Negativity: Avant-Garde Poetry, New Music, and the Cultural Turn

"My second moment of the public life of innovative poetry took place when Language poet Bruce Andrews stood up to Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor (November 2, 2006). While Andrews is known for his deployment of the material signifier in his work, his debate with O'Reilly focused not on his opaque and contestatory Language writing, but on his teaching of Robert Sheer's polemic The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq in political science classes at Fordham University—in the current political climate of academic-cum-Red baiting carried out by David Horowitz and his allies.... [I]t is precisely Andrews's being 'called up' before the House Un-American Activities Committee's (HUAC) vestigial organ as Fox News talk show that conditions the kind of negativity he can bring to the dismantling of false positives."

Poetry after Cultural Studies is available in December 2011. Reserve your copy today, and stay tuned to this blog for exclusive extra features as that date approaches!