While conventional notions of the avant-garde suggest work which is groundbreaking, confrontational and even impenetrable, this panel seeks to investigate poetry and poetics which adhere to a narrower sense of the term—namely, Peter Bürger's conception of the avant-garde as work which "demand[s] that art becomes practical once again," or returns art to the praxis of everyday life. Understood this way, Bürger's avant-garde aesthetic changes the ways in which an audience interacts with art, calling for personal action, and provides new, democratized inroads to the creative process.
Work conceived under this model might be thought of as "anti-Romantic," as it resists traditional stereotypes of the poet-figure as both exceptional and solitary—a rare individual graced by the muses—and rather, sees poetry as a common language available to all. The reader/poet is drawn into a larger poetic community, linked by processes of influence and action.
There's a broad history of 20th Century poetry which follows this avant-garde ideology, from the stark simplicity of William Carlos Williams' diction to the high-minded concepts guiding Tristan Tzara's Dadaist cut-ups, and in particular, work influenced by Donald Allen's epochal 1960 anthology, The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, seems to take this ethos as a guiding principle. The Poetry Project at Saint Mark's Church in the Bowery, the mimeograph revolution of the 1960s and 70s, and the Language poets' lists of experiments are all clear manifestations of Bürger's avant-garde at work, as are contemporary grassroots poetry workshops, listservs and blog-based journals.
Proposals exploring the work of specific poets, forms (the haiku or sestina, for example), venues and pedagogies are all welcome, as are papers which argue for authors or works not conventionally thought of as avant-garde who fit Bürger's ideology. Please send abstracts of 250-500 words with contact information to Michael S. Hennessey -- hennessey (dot) michael (at) gmail (dot) com -- by September 15, 2008.
Michael S. Hennessey
Managing Editor, PennSound (http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound)
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