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Sunday, 13 January 2008

Call for Papers: Long Poems ::: Major Forms

The University of Sussex’s School of Humanities, in conjunction with the Centre for Modernist Studies, invites submissions for papers to be given at the following conference, scheduled for Friday the 16th and Saturday the 17th of May 2008:

Long Poems ::: Major Forms

The ‘long poem’ has been traditionally conceived of as the principal means by which poets confront political and aesthetic problems through sustained investigations. Beyond this general outline, or indeed perhaps because of it, there is little consensus as to either what the long poem is, or what it might be uniquely capable of. In ‘The Poetic Principle,’ Edgar Allen Poe went so far as to assert that “a long poem does not exist” since “the ultimate, aggregate, or absolute effect of even the best epic under the sun, is a nullity.” Years later, and seeking to resolve the technical and affective dilemmas that Poe identified, Charles Olson prescribed a ‘projective verse’ that he purported might carry “much larger material than it has carried in our language since the Elizabethans.” He thought Pound’s Cantos exemplified the beginnings of such poetry, displaying a methodology capable of solving “problems of larger content and of larger forms.”

This conference seeks to address the contemporary relevance of the long poem: how has it evolved, what standing does it currently hold, and who are now its readers? As both a poetic and a critical concept, the ‘long poem’ presents poets with the difficulty of articulating what Pound called “a compound of freedom and order” that “hangs between chaos on the one side and mechanics on the other.” We hope this conference will provide a forum for the consideration of ways in which comprehensive, often formally complex and expansive poems may respond, or fail to respond, to certain “obligations toward the difficult whole,” and to explore what these obligations might now entail for both poets and their readers. We therefore welcome proposals for presentations addressing aesthetic, formal, generic, compositional and literary-historical questions the ‘long poem’ brings into particular focus.


Papers should be no more than 20 minutes in length, and calibrated towards generating wider
discussion. Please send a 250-word abstract, along with a brief biographical note by 1st March 2008 to thelongpoemconference@sussex.ac.uk. We will send out notifications shortly thereafter.


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