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See What I Mean

“See What I Mean”[1]

This project will focus on the ways in which radical anglophone poets of the post-1945 period reimagined the space of the page and its relations to prosody, the voice, and the body. It will analyze how these poets exploited what Nathaniel Mackey has called “graphicity”—“line breaks, multiple margins, orthography, typography and so on”[2]—to reveal antagonisms and contradictions within language itself.

It will also reflect on the links between underground textual production and the social, political, and technological transformations of the period. To what extent are social and economic relations legible in the material and visual forms of poems? How did nonconformist poets and publishers of the later twentieth century appropriate or resist capitalist literary technologies? How has the (often collective) labour of editing, typesetting, and printing served—overtly or tacitly—to build solidarity within and between radical poetic and political movements?

The research will concentrate on documentary material related to the design and production of poetry: manuscripts, drafts, page proofs, correspondence, etc. In the process, it will ask how we can work with archival material in ways that are attentive to the physical and temporal processes of literary production.

1. Amiri Baraka, “In Memory of Radio,” c. 1962.
2. Nathaniel Mackey, “That Words Can Be on the Page,” in Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (Cambridge, 1993), 122, 123.