Synopses & Reviews
What is the place of individual genius in a global world of hyper-information— a world in which, as Walter Benjamin predicted more than seventy years ago, everyone is potentially an author? For poets in such a climate, "originality" begins to take a back seat to what can be done with other peoples words—framing, citing, recycling, and otherwise mediating available words and sentences, and sometimes entire texts. Marjorie Perloff here explores this intriguing development in contemporary poetry: the embrace of "unoriginal" writing. Paradoxically, she argues, such citational and often constraint-based poetry is more accessible and, in a sense, "personal" than was the hermetic poetry of the 1980s and 90s.
Perloff traces this poetics of "unoriginal genius" from its paradigmatic work, Benjamins encyclopedic Arcades Project, a book largely made up of citations. She discusses the processes of choice, framing, and reconfiguration in the work of Brazilian Concretism and Oulipo, both movements now understood as precursors of such hybrid citational texts as Charles Bernsteins opera libretto Shadowtime and Susan Howes documentary lyric sequence The Midnight. Perloff also finds that the new syncretism extends to language: for example, to the French-Norwegian Caroline Bergvall writing in English and the Japanese Yoko Tawada, in German. Unoriginal Genius concludes with a discussion of Kenneth Goldsmiths conceptualist book Traffic—a seemingly "pure" radio transcript of one holiday weekends worth of traffic reports. In these instances and many others, Perloff shows us "poetry by other means" of great ingenuity, wit, and complexity.
and#8220;Illuminating analyses of a diverse set of poems. . . . Recommended.and#8221;
"Ramazani casts much light on the question of what poetry isand#8212;or perhaps what it does. . . . [H]is approach opens new possibilities for reconsidering how poems. . . are in dialogue with philosophy or with contemporary writing about the visual arts."
andldquo;After considering the historical contexts and thematic ties between works of different genres, [Ramazani] swoops in on passages of rich complexity and allusiveness, seizing the kernel of poetic distinctiveness. . . . Against a background of nonandshy;poetry, the specific features that make poetry recognizable suddenly stand out.andrdquo;
andldquo;It is delightful to watch Jahan Ramazani do what he does best: delve into poets such as Hopkins, Yeats, Heaney, and Muldoon and show us the nitty-gritty of how their verse works. Anyone who loves poetry is going to come away from this book revitalized, prepared to think complexly about the modes of address that poets employ, as well as the kinds of writing that they habitually echo, distort, take apart, and reassemble.andrdquo;
and#8220;Jahan Ramazani is that rare critic who has read and understood a wide range of contemporary theory but is also a strong close reader, bringing his arguments alive through example. Poetry and Its Others is a capstone of the work he has done so far, combining his interests in genre, hybridity, and dialogism; his remarkably wide, global knowledge of modern poetry in English; and his commitment to poetry as a distinctive lens and language by which to encounter the world. This impressive and richly suggestive book moves through so many large areas of poetic dialogue and reciprocity with other forms that it will be important to poetry lovers both in and outside academia.and#8221;
andldquo;A wide-ranging affair that travels throughout the English-speaking world and is as engaged with the contemporary as it is with the established canon. . . . Marrying methodology and content, Poetry and Its Others
becomes the rich and varied thing it sets out to consider.andrdquo;
What is poetry? Often it is understood as a largely self-enclosed verbal systemandmdash;andldquo;suspended from any mutual interaction with alien discourse,andrdquo; in the words of Mikhail Bakhtin. But in Poetry and Its Others, Jahan Ramazani reveals modern and contemporary poetryandrsquo;s animated dialogue with other genres and discourses. Poetry generates rich new possibilities, he argues, by absorbing and contending with its near verbal relatives.and#160;Exploring poetryandrsquo;s vibrant exchanges with other forms of writing, Ramazani shows how poetry assimilates features of prose fiction but differentiates itself from novelistic realism; metabolizes aspects of theory and philosophy but refuses their abstract procedures; and recognizes itself in the verbal precision of the law even as it separates itself from the lawandrsquo;s rationalism. But poetryandrsquo;s most frequent interlocutors, he demonstrates, are news, prayer, and song. Poets such as William Carlos Williams and W. H. Auden refashioned poetry to absorb the news while expanding its contexts; T. S. Eliot and Charles Wright drew on the intimacy of prayer though resisting its limits; and Paul Muldoon, Rae Armantrout, and Patience Agbabi have played with and against song lyrics and techniques. Encompassing a cultural and stylistic range of writing unsurpassed by other studies of poetry, Poetry and Its Others shows that we understand what poetry is by examining its interplay with what it is not.
About the Author
Marjorie Perloff is professor of English emerita at Stanford University and the Florence R. Scott Professor of English Emerita at the University of Southern California. She is the author of many books, including, most recently, Poetics in a New Key and Unoriginal Genius, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
List of Figures
1 Unoriginal Genius
2 Phantasmagorias of the Marketplace
Citational Poetics in Walter Benjamins Arcades Project
3 From Avant-garde to Digital
The Legacy of Brazilian Concrete Poetry
4 Writing Through Walter Benjamin
Charles Bernsteins “Poem including History”
5 “The Rattle of Statistical Traffic”
Documentary and Found Text in Susan Howes The Midnight
6 Language in Migration
Multilingualism and Exophonic Writing in the New Poetics
7 Conceptual Bridges / Digital Tunnels
Kenneth Goldsmiths Traffic