Here are synopses for Saturday’s symposium. It promises to be a very exciting day:

Stephen Bann

Concrete Poetry: The aesthetic/historical penumbra

Retrospective views often tend to iron out the complex interaction of factors that characterises any artistic ‘movement’. Notions of influence frequently imply a misunderstanding of the subtle negotiations that the poet or artist makes with the inherited culture.This paper is a preliminary attempt to define some of the specific literary, aesthetic and philosophical options that appealed to concrete poets in general, and to Ian Hamilton Finlay in particular, in the course of the 1960s.

Greg Thomas

Concrete Poetry in Britain: Locations and Chronologies

Recounting the overlapping narratives of concrete poetry’s reception and development in Britain during the 1960s is a task that has not generally been undertaken in an equitable and broadly-focused manner. This partly reflects a pervasive tradition of critical hostility to the style in Britain, partly the ambiguity of that “style” itself, and a related tendency within those narratives which have appeared to focus on particular poets or groups of poets, often reflecting particular cultural and social attachments as well as certain stylistic proclivities. This paper attempts to provide an introductory overview of the multiple locations and chronologies of concrete poetry’s early development in Britain; amongst other things, this will involve relaying some unknown facts and dates unearthed through primary research, bringing to light the work of some little-known poets and pushing into dialogue the work of poets generally considered in isolation from each other, and touching on the characteristics and significance of regional literary and artistic culture in Britain during the 1950s-70s.”

Vanessa Hannesschläger

inside outsider – outside insider. Ernst Jandl and (inter)national concrete poetry

Ernst Jandl (1925-2000) was a skilled networker, who found recognition among international experimental poets at a time when the restorative atmosphere of post-war Austria did not allow avant-garde art to gain solid ground. Even within the national scene, mutual approval was not a matter of course as demonstrated by Jandl’s relationship with the Vienna Group. This talk will give an overview of Jandl’s concrete poetry contacts within the borders of his country as well as abroad, especially focusing on the lively correspondence with Ian Hamilton Finlay. The spotlight will also be turned to the role of literary periodicals and magazines in the process of institutionalizing ‘the new poetry’, as Jandl called it. The significance of this term for Jandl’s poetics will allow insights into his choice of literary ‘relatives’.

Viviane Carvalho da Annunciação:

A Critical Felix Culpa: Concrete Poetry in Brazil

Throughout almost sixty years of existence, concrete poetry divided literary critics in Brazil. Since its formal outset in 1956 with the Exhibition of Concrete Poetry in Modern Art Museum of São Paulo, until the end of the nineties, its writers have been severely criticized. However, such a belligerent reception corresponded to cultural discourses that were in an emergent phase in Brazilian society. The aim of this paper is to contextualize concrete poetry in the history of literary criticism in Brazil and to offer an alternative reading of its artistic and political importance. I wish to argue that this revisionist approach would safeguard the movement from sterile critical rivalry and pre-conceived ideas.

Eduardo Kac

Dispelling Myths of Origin

Many international anthologies often cite the Noigandres group as the origin of the concrete poetry form, when in reality both the term “concrete poetry” and the form itself precede the Noigandres group’s claim to it. The poets that constitute the group have often presented their work as the departing point of visuality in Brazilian poetry, when visual and syntactic experimentation in Brazilian literature have a long history that clearly begins with Baroque poetry. More importantly, Wlademir Dias-Pino, a founder of Brazilian concrete poetry who exerted clear influence over the Noigandres group, remains largely unknown. This presentation will demonstrate the multiple origins of concrete poetry and will highlight the work of the revolutionary poet Wlademir Dias-Pino.

Drew Milne

Ecology without nature: Ian Hamilton Finlay and contemporary poetics.

This talk explores the status of nature in Ian Hamilton Finlay’s poetics, taking some cues from recent discussions in ecological and environmental aesthetics, such as Timothy Morton’s Ecology without nature: rethinking environmental aesthetics (2007). Finlay engages different grounds to support his poetic forms. His poems remain, accordingly, somewhat apart from their various embodiments. Whether working with sundials, hankies, gardens or paper, the environmental contexts evoked are persistently marked by an art/nature hierarchy, posing apparently neo-classical challenges to environmental pastoralism. Specifying the wit and power of Finlay’s ecological poetics suggests a new optic on subsequent poetics that owe something to Finlay, and a critical foil to eco-poetics and nature writing.

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