It may seem obvious that media changes how an author writes, but what else does it change? What they write? Where literature appears? What literature is? How might understanding the complex and nuanced history of media help us better understand what we read? Special thanks to Orchid Tierney for requesting a post on this important topic. —Katie L. Price
Lyric, meaning "of or pertaining to the lyre," has a concertedly interdisciplinary origin rooted in its practice of bringing poetry together with music. As many critics—including those responding below—have shown, the lyric has had a long and complicated history, the term evoloving over the centuries to take on different valences, connotations, and even denotations. So what does lyric mean today and in our recent past? Does lyric retain in some way its relation to the lyre, pictured above in Henry Oliver Walker's Library of Congress mural Lyric Poetry (1896)? Where do we find lyric in modern and contemporary poetry? And what might the future of lyric look like? —Katie L. Price
While Auden famously wrote that “poetry makes nothing happen,” he offers a clarification: “it survives / A way of happening, a mouth.” It is one of the most basic questions in our field, and one that I often hear from students: does poetry matter, and, if so, how? Certainly poetry’s ability to “matter” does not rest on socio-political impact alone. Nevertheless, the question of poetry’s significance alludes to a long debate: is poetry always about poetry — l'art pour l'art — or does poetry serve a societal function. Put in Auden’s terms, what happens when we read or write poetry? — Katie L. Price
Poetry can have a sociopolitical impact through how it constitutes communities toward forms of struggle adequate to acting on historical conditions. Within historical conditions, the totality of poetry’s social networks breaks down into overlapping communities defined by common aesthetic and political values, an expression of struggles within and between communities over those values.
What constitutes conceptual writing is still up for debate. For more than a decade, poets and critics have been claiming, reclaiming, or disclaiming the territory of conceptual writing. Who's in? Who's out? What are its limits? Isn't all writing somewhat conceptual? Or, conversely, doesn't the very act of writing preclude any kind of pure conceptuality? But in all the back and forth, two facts remain firm. One, that conceptual writing — however we define that term — has come to represent a new avant-garde in poetry and poetics. And two, that the term conceptual writing alludes to Conceptual art. Now that we're at least eight minutes in to conceptual writing’s fifteen minutes of fame, it’s time to query that relationship. Is poetry just 50 years behind the art world? Or are so-called conceptual writers up to something else? — Katie L. Price
When new acquaintances ask what I study, I often tell them, “poetry that doesn’t look like poetry.” Though my response might seem glib, the sentiment is sincere: I find myself drawn to poetry that unshackles that same term from its traditional denotation. The field of modern and contemporary poetry is full of language that doesn't behave: fixed forms are abandoned for open fields, words are rendered illegible, standardized grammar is disrupted, letters stray from counterparts that would give them meaning, the page is replaced by the screen, and nonsemantic sounds fill basement bars. So why do we still call it poetry? — Katie L. Price