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Friday, November 2 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
4.A. Anthologizing Surrealism: Postmodern American Poetry

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PANEL. Anthologizing Surrealism: Postmodern American Poetry

In his essay, “Neo-Surrealism; Or, the Sun at Night,” Andrew Joron asserts that “surrealism does not levitate above History,” but, rather, is inextricably connected to a specific cultural moment. He suggests that “the shape of surrealist subversion shifts according to the contours of the surrounding landscape. Both the darkness of the ‘uncanny’ and the brightness of the ‘marvelous’ are not absolute but relative qualities.” It is these contours and relative qualities that are at the crux of this panel and, specifically, how they are manifested in Modern and Contemporary poetry from the United States. The impact and legacy of Surrealism is, arguably, felt no more powerfully than in the U.S. Surrealist formulations have come to dominate a large part of the American poetic landscape from the Beat poets of the 1950’s and 60’s to the New York School poets of the same era to the Deep Imagists and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poets of the 1970’s through today, as well as the varied avant-garde and experimental poetry dominating the current American scene. The members of this panel are editors in the process of compiling an anthology of American Surrealist poetry. The anthology is an attempt to document, investigate, celebrate, and highlight the legacy of surrealism in American poetics from after World War II to today. We will also present minority writers of younger generations, including but not limited to Sherwin Bitsui, Uche Nduka, Lucas de Lima, Sean D. Henry-Smith, and Debora Kuan, in order to challenge entrenched conceptions that surrealism--and the historical avant-garde more generally--is a white, Eurocentric practice. The format for this panel combines aspects of a formal presentation with a more open roundtable discussion. The intent is to highlight our current progress on the anthology with the hope of provoking an open conversation whereby members of the audience can actively participate in the construction of the anthology with ideas, input, suggestions, and criticism. We will discuss the different categories/chapters of Surrealist poets we have created thus far (e.g. Oneiricists, Alchemists, Somnabulists, Eroticists, Fabulists, Conjurers, and more); provide a brief historical context regarding our ideas for inclusion; outline issues surrounding influence and canonicity; reveal prominent writers included so far (e.g. Philip Lamantia, Rikki Ducornet, Will Alexander, John Ashbery, Jayne Cortez, Russell Edson, John Yau, Andrew Joron, John Olson, and many more); and, discuss the challenges we have encountered regarding editorial decision-making and anthology creation.

We approach this project with a kind of urgency (and enthusiasm) as the moment for an anthology of American neo-surrealist poetry seems overdue and the need to catalogue this unique historical ‘snapshot’ of one incarnation of the legacy of surrealism, we suspect, will generate a significant amount of interest amongst readers. The current heightened interest in hybrid genres and experimental forms invariably includes writers whose work is replete with surrealist gestures and impulses. Underlying much of this is a debate regarding the influence of surrealism and the supposed ‘authenticity’ of current surrealism(s) in America that seems, in part, a division between two different lineages: the traditional or classic surrealists like Philip Lamantia and Adam Cornford versus neo-surrealist writers who Ron Silliman has pejoratively referred to as “soft surrealists” (e.g. James Tate and Russell Edson). Although we are interested in this tension, our anthology takes a more complex, nuanced, and multi-faceted approach and includes numerous permutations of surrealism from writers as diverse as Allen Ginsberg and Harryette Mullen, Bob Kaufman, Barbara Guest, Matthew Roher and Rosmarie Waldrop, Stephen Jonas and Charles Simic, Jack Spicer and Garrett Caples. More than simply influenced by Surrealism, these writers embody the spirit of the early French Surrealists in their exploration of the imagination and the unconscious mind via imagery that is bizarre and oneiric. These poets often transform perception and transcend rational thought through disjointed, fragmentary, and disturbing juxtapositions. It is poetry interested in imagistic associations that push against the control of reason and challenge dominant poetic conventions in a myriad of different trajectories and forms reminiscent of the most ardent Surrealism of the early part of the 20th century.

Mark Tursi
Manhattan College

Michael Leong
State University of New York, Albany

Matt Miller
Yeshiva University

Speakers
avatar for Michael Leong

Michael Leong

Assistant Professor of English, University at Albany, State University of New York
Michael Leong works at the intersections of poetry writing, ethnic American literature, and legacies of the historical avant-garde. His recent poetry books include Words on Edge (Black Square Editions, 2018) and Who Unfolded My Origami Brain? (Fence Digital, 2017). He is currently... Read More →
avatar for Matt Miller

Matt Miller

Yeshiva University
avatar for Mark Tursi

Mark Tursi

Adjunct Professor, Marymount Manhattan College & New Jersey City University
Mark Tursi is the author of four books of poetry: Brutal Synecdoche, The Impossible Picnic, Shiftless Days, and, forthcoming in fall 2018, The Uncanny Valley. He is one of the founding editors of Apostrophe Books, an innovative press devoted to publishing poetry that intersects philosophy... Read More →

Chairs
avatar for Mark Tursi

Mark Tursi

Adjunct Professor, Marymount Manhattan College & New Jersey City University
Mark Tursi is the author of four books of poetry: Brutal Synecdoche, The Impossible Picnic, Shiftless Days, and, forthcoming in fall 2018, The Uncanny Valley. He is one of the founding editors of Apostrophe Books, an innovative press devoted to publishing poetry that intersects philosophy... Read More →


Friday November 2, 2018 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Room A. Hildreth-Mirza Hall: Great Room Annex (ground floor)