"Things Unintelligible, Yet Understood": Race and the Genealogies of American Poetics


LAC Burkhardt


American Studies


For residence at the Department of English at the CUNY Graduate Center during academic year 2017-2018


This project re-thinks not only the literary historical narratives of American poetry since Modernism but fundamental concepts and practices that constitute contemporary poetry criticism. Whether in discussions of lyric, “craft,” formal experimentation, or other such categories, these core ideas (e.g., the poetic speaker, difficulty) and techniques (e.g., description) are usually assumed to be neutral, objective, universal, and/or impersonal aspects of poetry and poetics—“what we tend to feel is without history” (Foucault). Foundational poetic ideas are often invoked by centering the work of “major” (white canonical) poets. This project, instead, re-contextualizes American poetics by bringing side by side poetries that are usually not read in relation to one another: the work of experimental Asian American, African American, Latina/o, and Native American poets and that of both canonical and lesser-known white poets.