Poetry Without Borders (Gen Ed 1057)





Why do poems and poets today boldly cross the borders of language, geography, form, and how are those border-crossings charged politically, ethically, and aesthetically?


Aesthetics & Culture icon with text

Stephanie Sandler

A stem with berries attached and a curved hand casting a shadow, both resting on a piece of wood.

Without borders, can there be poetry? The border of white paper surrounds printed poems; national boundaries keep cultural and linguistic traditions distinct; and aesthetic practice and its conventions create genres and demarcate poetry from music or dance or film. How poetry requires but also perversely challenges these limits will be the subject of this course.  

The course studies the cultural practice of poetry, with an emphasis on contemporary poetry. We will examine four kinds of borders – performative, linguistic, geographic, and aesthetic. That yields four large topics: poetry in and about public places (how does poetry speak to public life, including political life? How does poetry address experiences of trauma and harm? What ethical challenges loom large in poetic practice?); poetry and translation (what happens when poems cross languages? how to read mixed-language or macaronic poems?); poetry, confinement, and migration (what happens when poets cross geographic borders? what do they hear in a new language and, as a result, in their own? how do mixed identities and allegiances work? how have the current crises around border crossings and around incarceration affected poetic practices?); and poetry and the other arts (how have the cross-influences of music, film, dance, the visual arts, and photography been felt in poetry? how do poems become visual artifacts, or scripts for performance?).  

We will read, listen to, and learn from Laurie Anderson, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Joseph Brodsky, Angie Estes, Allen Ginsberg, Eliza Griswold, Susan Howe, Jorie Graham, Daniil Kharms, Idra Novey, Eugene Ostashevsky, Yang Lian, Valzhyna Mort, Vladimir Nabokov, M. NourbeSe Philip, Tracy K. Smith, Brian Turner, C. D. Wright, Lida Yusupova, and others.

Register for Gen Ed 1057