LLC 20th- and 21st-Century American forum executive committee:
Paula M. L. Moya, Jan. 2016
Mark Goble, Jan. 2017 (2015–Jan. 2016 Ch.)
Amy Hungerford, Jan. 2018 (2015–Jan. 2016 Sec.)
Heather Houser, Jan. 2019
Joseph Jeon, Jan. 2020
post 9/11 american poetry
27 March 2017 at 8:53 am #1013929
I would to start a discussion on post 9/11 American poetry. Interested members are reauested to communicate with me as soon as possible.
Joydeep chakraborty27 March 2017 at 10:56 pm #1013932
I’m very interested, especially as US poetry in the second half of the past century seemed concerned with the private and now, with the provocations of 9/11 and Claudia Rankine, poets are being urged to become more public.
John Streamas29 March 2017 at 12:03 pm #1013942
Thank you a lot for your interest in post 9/11 poetry, especially in Claudia Rankine. The primary literature I have chosen for our discussion is as follows,
1. An Eye For an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind by Allen Cohen and Clive Matson.
2. Poetry After 9/11; An Anthology of New York Poets by Denis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians
3.September 11, 2001; American Writers Respond by William Heyen
4.October by Louise Gluck
5.Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
6.’Fear’ by C.K. Williams and a number of poems in Selected Individual Poems in http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/911poetry (a Library of Congress website).
Now, do you think them adequate as extensive primary literature on our issue? Please, make comments as soon as possible.2 April 2017 at 11:43 pm #1013970
Sorry I’m so late to reply. I am unfamiliar with the first item above, and am surprising myself not to be familiar with the Gluck book, since I keep up with most of her work. I very much like the rest of the list. At risk of getting slightly off-topic, would you agree that fiction writers have written about 9/11 and its aftermaths more and better than poets? To engage in this history forces poets to be much more public in their concerns than most American poets have been willing to be since the late 1950s. (I do think this is changing, though, and that the change began before 9/11.) Rankine may be, in this regard, the most “public” poet, but even the existence of new anthologies on poets’ failure adequately to respond to such issues as racism (I’m thinking of the book she coedited called The Racial Imaginary) indicates that, in order to fail, at least they are trying, or considering an effort.6 April 2017 at 12:48 pm #1013994
Please, wait. I will reply very soon7 April 2017 at 8:21 am #1014002
I am late for technical problems in this website.
An Eye for an Eye is a historical interpretation of 9/11 that challenges mainstream media representation of the same and October is a deep meditation on the attempt to counter and assimilate traumatic experience. So I highly recommend these two works for our ongoing discussion.
As for the question as to the superiority of novel over poetry, I must declare that while novels like Falling Man fail to counter the 9/11 crisis and retreats into the old certainties of home, hearth and the myth of American exceptionalism, novels like Twilight of the Superheroes wisely addresses the issue in a transnational, heterogeneous context that deterritorialises America. On the other hand, 9/11 poetry in the hands of specialist poets like Galway Kinnell,Louise Gluck and so on attains a unique metaphysical dimendion that transcends its context.
I do agree with you that poets are getting public, and an extensive study of 9/11 poetry shows that this shift entails a variety of modes- whereas some poems try to interpret 9/11 from the standpoint of historical causality, others focus on the immediate impact of the event. Some even consider it as a break with history.
Please, comment on the matter.8 April 2017 at 1:53 am #1014008
I’ve just requested from our library the anthology and the Gluck book, and look forward to reading them. Do you know Ruth Ozeki’s novel A Tale for the Time Being? A small section of it is devoted to a Japanese father’s fixation on images of the Falling Man, and then his daughter, one of the book’s two protagonists, registers his fixation and feels the same mix of fascination and revulsion when she watches the images. The whole novel is a wonderful meditation (although so much happens in it that to call it meditative is to distort it) on lived time and narrated time, and for Ozeki the experience of 9/11, like the experience of Fukushima, seems to move from the fixed former to the ahistorical latter. But I think this is where poetry can enter and improve our sense of 9/11. Do you know whether Jorie Graham has written about 9/11? She would be perfect for studying it in her long, long poems. Here’s an idea of the difference between fiction and poetry of 9/11: While much fiction tends to memorialize it in the way that monument-makers and “public” art memorializes it–that is, turn it so public that it loses its personal meanings–poetry has a potential to understand it in both its lived time and its narrated time. Slightly off topic, our first-year students today, if they are 19 years old, probably have no memory of 9/11. Even our 22-year-old seniors were only 6 on 9/11. I see more marketing for books about veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and about imprisonment at Guantanamo, than I see for books on 9/11 these days.11 April 2017 at 10:00 am #1014016
Thank you for making me familiar with A Tale for the Time Being. You made a significant point about lived time and narrated time both of which post 9/11 poetry entails. A poem like “Messages from the Sky: September 11, 2001” by Fred Moramarco, which captures a number of messages from the 9/11 victims in direct speeches, is a brilliant example of it. The poem, at once, narrates through these voices what is presently going on in the twin towers, and lives those moments. But “Out of the Blue” by Simon Armitage, I think, is a better example. Especially interesting is the seventh stanza, which directly records the repeated, confused voices of a number of entrapped victims. Poetry in this way can transcend the limitations of narrated time, and speak the unspeakable. Post 9/11 poetry is also characterised by imagined time. “Jesus Poem” by Susan Birkeland, in which the speaker imaginatively projects herself into the psychological condition of a 9/11 victim just about to fall, adequately testifies to this point. Ultimately, the foregoing body of poems is also smooth in representing historical time and its relation to the present. A proper example of it is “History of the Airplane” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (included in Eye for an Eye). What do you think about all these? Do you note any other conception of time? Any conflict between these conceptions of time, that can lend some new meaning?
As for your question about Jorie Graham, I must say that her “Overlord Poems” may have some connection to 9/11. Looking forward to your answer.19 April 2017 at 1:19 am #1014059
Is your reading of An Eye For An Eye and October finished? If so, please, make some scholarly comments on them.
Joydeep Chakraborty20 April 2017 at 12:52 pm #1014069
I haven’t read everything in the anthology yet, but am curious about October. Gluck seems to be one of those “nature” poets who really isn’t writing about flora and fauna but about the self, but that makes political comment feel distant, uncommitted. She’s saying, not “I am deeply wounded by the deaths of those refugees” but “I am deeply wounded by the death of my friend, and the death of the elm tree outside my window, and this is the same as those refugees’ deaths.” This is unfair to her, I know, since I love her work, but the equations don’t always work. Do yuou know the poem by Sharon Olds, from her 1996 book The Wellspring, about the Japanese American farmhouse abandoned because its residents were sent away to imprisonment? The poem is surrounded in the book by very intimate portrayals of Olds’s parents’ lives, but the last line of this poem makes the only reference to these parents, calling them ‘ignorant” neighbors. Now this is a poem that has a small and intimate foreground set against a much larger historical background, and I think it works brilliantly. But it works mostly because of the context of surrounding poems in the text. (Musicians who insist that fans buy their whole albums rather than just download individual songs also insist on the songs’ mutual contextualizing, though they are usually wrong, motivated by profit.) And it succeeds at what Gluck seems to be trying, not altogether successfully, to do in her chapbook.27 April 2017 at 10:23 am #1014109
I did not respond to your answer quickly because I thought you were busy with the study of An Eye For An Eye. You are, definitely, right in assuming that the subject position of the speaker in October makes him/her incapable of making any political comments. But it also enables him/her to contemplate on post-traumatic self and human life in its broader context in an abstract and general manner. Her limitations have been laudably overcome by Claudia Rankine in Don’t Let Me Be Lonely which at once comments on terrorists and post-9/11 social crisis, and meditates on the broader human life. What do you think?
I am presently researching (Ph.D) on the self-explorative aspect of post-9/11 American poetry, that is, its tendency to inquire into American identity both in its socio-historico-political form and in its intimate, private form. Would you like to see my research proposal?28 April 2017 at 1:08 am #1014153
I would love to see your proposal. My email address is <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and you may just send it that way if you’d prefer. We’ve avoided the word “confessional,” and I think that’s wise. I don’t think Gluck is a conventionally confessional poet, yet she’s less “historical” and public than, say, the Lowell of the 1960s. Because several new books are appearing on Bishop, I wonder how you would assess her work? She seems to me always to dance around the political. The poets in Eye for an Eye seem to be engaged in the same way that, say, Bao Phi and Craig Santos Perez are engaged. I see among them older souls like Nellie Wong and David Ray, who wrote scathing political poems against the Viet Nam War and for workers’ rights decades ago–I took a class from Ray in 1978 and met Wong at a conference in Wisconsin in 1992–and they are much less concerned with Lowell’s and Bishop’s niceties, though I don’t think the same can be said of all poets in the collection. I think the internet has given impetus to much public poetry. Check out Bao Phi’s Website and see/hear some of his work. Do you think the Web is changing American poetry? I doubt that its effect is the same elsewhere, though, if it’s true that most digital media exist in English and must get translated before accessing large audiences.
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