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For my final assignment I had planned on writing—and wrote the first three pages of—an essay chronicling the history of “quotation” in English language poetry; I wanted to argue for a kind of formal greebling in Marianne Moore’s “An Octopus” that changed the way subsequent poets felt permitted to texture their work. By comparing the relationship between Moore’s quoted language and her source material with the way other poets engage with source material, I hoped to kind of loosely (softly!) taxonomize the conditions of possibility for quotation in postwar American poetics.

Unfortunately, or else fortunately, those initial pages gestured toward an essay that was perhaps unnecessarily “galactic” in its consequences, and I felt like the reasonable response was to brainstorm a way of tackling materiality that was somehow more narrow and more local.

In my own recent poetic work, my so-called subject matter has been resolutely humanistic—short and I hope “emotional” lyrics that manifest variously as “psychic drama” or “generic human drama.” For a while, I have been seeking a break in the manuscript—to occur, I imagine, around three-quarters through—that would respond to the minimalism of those lyrics with an accelerated, prolix language, tonally offset from the first three quarters, and taking the “complex material world” as aesthetic focal point. The work I have produced in this new vein has so far been exploratory—writing in many directions with the intention of fastening upon a mode that provides sufficient aesthetic contrast to minimalism. This process of working-through has produced poetic writing that, to my mind, engages with the questions and concerns of so-called New Materialism far more productively than the previous essay could have. What’s more, that writing manifests as having already been influenced by the reading traditions we have been moving through in this class.

For these reasons, I intend to keep writing in “poetic” directions. The end result will be, I imagine, at least 20 pages of critically-engaged poetic work that formally dramatize “the lyric speaker’s engagement with material and ontological textures.” The poetic antecedents for this work strike me as being—reductively—Louis Zukofsky, Barbara Guest, Martin Corless-Smith, Lisa Robertson, “Charles Olson,” John Wieners, Vi Khi Nao, Alex Walton, Jodi Johnson, William Carlos Williams, Robert Browning, Sir Thomas Browne, Marianne Moore, John Ashbery, Keston Sutherland, and maybe J.H. Prynne.

If necessary, I will append pages of critical prose language to the project to justify it inside the academic arena. I hope it is not logistically egregious of me to have decided to proceed in this way.



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