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Abstract/Proposal for Article About Poems vs. Projects

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Planned article for The Cleaver literary magazine, below is the initial abstract and some notes. Editor has requested that the scope of the article be significantly narrowed - would be good to know what to delete.

Title: The Project or the Poem: A Collapsible Binary?

Abstract: This article will explore recent trends in contemporary American poetry, focusing on authors that use meta-textual commentary to place their poems into conversation with a web of relations including conceptual origins, experiential inputs, and the mental process of development which ultimately manifest the work itself. In so doing, they generate poetic investigations into the nature of subjective authorship, beyond mere formal exercises or experiments, potentially providing a refutation/rethinking of T.S. Eliot’s dualistic diagram of the relationship between poetry and criticism as presented in his famous essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent.”

Three books will be considered in specific detail:
• Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. A book which is essentially a narrative essay about the process of research which went into the writing of the book itself. The writing continuously circles its abstract and general topic while refusing to stabilize it, proliferating meanings and perspectives and exploring the compositional influences exerted by the conceptual existence of the work as a talking point/ mental preoccupation prior to its actual writing.
• Anne Carson’s Glass, Irony, God. The long poem, “The Glass Essay,” offers an extended meditation on deeply personal moments of accepting loss mediated by the author’s research into the life and work of Emily Brontë. The traditional poetic allusions and images are represented by a series of Nudes are integrated into the melding narratives of Carson and Brontë’s lives in parallel. Equal parts personal essay, literary criticism, and dream song, this work reveals the way in which research-based composition can be used as a form of escapism in response to grief/trauma.
• Susan Landers’ Franklinstein. Local Philadelphia author’s ode to the history of the Germantown neighborhood. Book begins with a post-mortem of an aborted project to write a poetic drama about the lives of Gertrude Stein and Benjamin Franklin, transitioning into a description of the author’s fascination with her childhood neighborhood and expressing its changing continuance. Closes with an epic poem that dedicates and commemorates individuals in the neighborhood through their response to the project of the book itself.

Conclusion: an analysis of the move away from products towards process in writing, showing more of the work’s gestation rather than its ‘final form’ – compare to other forms of research-based poetics throughout history, like William Carlos Williams’ Paterson. Considering whether the increasing textual presentation of the self offers an influence in these authors’ decisions to include their own notes, revisions, experiences, idiosyncrasies in their work.

t.s. eliot - tradition and the individual talent - the poet is an impersonal medium for the transmission of the world into the form of poetry, serving as a chemical reagent

poetic experimentation at the level of form, including found texts and conversational language — but the goal is to transmit objective content

reexamination of the role that labor and experience play in the genesis of the work itself — transmission of subjective creative process

maggie nelson — revealing the hollow nature of the project as a necessary but also necessarily facile way to present the work — entry #13 demonstrates the use of the work as a talking point before it is seriously manifested or begun — entry #64 chronicles the self-indulgent description of the project-as-lustful-obsession in a rejected application for grant money — entry #85 describes the way that the appearances of the research objects in the authors’ life comes to primarily dictate their importance for the project

melding confessional or diary-like narrative with more abstract imagery (carson’s series of nudes)

susan landers’ franklinstein…

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