Fourth CAAP Convention in Jinan, China

2015 Conference Program: PDF

 My opening remarks:

I regret I cannot be in Jinan for the Fourth CAAP Convention – the fifth convention to bring together Chinese scholars and teachers who are engaged with poetry and poetics and the exchange between American and Chinese scholars and poets.  

At my graduate seminar at the University of Pennsylvania the other night, one of the students made a point that is very often made, expressing an anxiety that poetry is luxury for those with time and learning. I thought of Audre Lorde’s great essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury.” Indeed, those who feel they have enough – money, material satisfaction, knowledge – are likely to think that poetry is not necessary: it doesn’t contribute to economic growth, offers no immediate solutions to poverty or climate change, can’t stop political violence or bring about more just societies. W.H. Auden famously wrote “Poetry makes nothing happen.” I take that nothing to be the same place Emily Dickinson invokes when she writes that “no” is the wildest word we consign to language. Poetry is both a wilderness and a desert, the same one the ancient Isrealites wandered in Exodus. And it is just such deserts or wildernesses, such sites of blank or emptiness or nothing, that we have a place for exchange across what otherwise might seem insurmountable borders, as between our two complex and rich cultures of China and the Americas.

For those of us in search of meaning, or truth, or sense, or possibility, poetry is a necessity, a tool for survival; our beacon, our light in the darkness that surrounds us, to echo Robert Creeley’s line.

Better to recognize you are in the dark than to pretend your ignorance is all the light you need.

I believe in poetry not as a path to truth or morality but a way of going on in the absence of certainties.

Over the next days, dig in to the intellectual and aesthetic meal of poetry. Poetry is not the kind of food fills you up. Poetry, the kind of poetry I want, leaves you hungry: hungry for the world and ready to dig in.

Poetry begins in solitude and ends in dialog.

Let the dialog begin. 

November 25, 2015
Brooklyn, NY

l to r: Lianggong Luo, Jean-Michel Rabaté, Maryemma Graham, Hank Lazer 


Hank Lazer

Lianggong Luo and Jean-Michel Rabaté


from left: Bo Ling, Liu Fuli, Hank Lazer, Nie Zhenzhao, Lianggon Luo 

2015 Conference Program: PDF

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