About CoPo

August 18, 2010

“Contemporary Poetry” is a term commonly used to refer to poetry written after 1945.  By no means does the date provide a clear breaking point by which to categorize writers; indeed, many “Modern” writers (where “Modernism” is defined as the literary movement roughly of the first half of the 20th century) were publishing major works well into the 1960s, casting a long shadow under which writers of subsequent generations struggled to define themselves.  Part of our work in this course will be understanding how contemporary poets delineated themselves from their precursors, seeking, for instance, to crack the impersonal voice of Eliotic modernism and imagist poetry or to challenge the New Critical idea of the well-wrought and independent poem in favor of messier, organic, dynamic forms and engaged politics.  Like most people who have lived during this time, the poets we study have been deeply affected by World War II and the unthinkable, unbearable power of the atom bomb; the horror of, and crisis of humanity caused by, the Holocaust; Vietnam’s violence and the attendant domestic unrest; the social upheavals of the feminist movement, civil rights movements, and LGBTQ movements; AIDS; the mind-boggling pace and ability of technology; the continued flexibility and challenges of a globalized or postnational economy and politics; 9-11 and other terrorism; post- and neo-coloniality¾to name just some of the major events and forces in our chaotic time.  More than many, perhaps, they face also what some have seen as a crisis of language: how can language suffice to express, for instance, the violations and terror of a concentration camp?  Can it redeem us in any way?  Can women, ethnic minorities, or homosexuals use a language saturated with histories and powers from which they have been excluded—and if not, what then?  Is the purpose of language even finally transactional?  Who and what is poetry for?  In this course, as we too consider these questions, we will immerse ourselves in some of the voices, rhythms, words, and sounds that have emerged in the last sixty years.

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