everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book
– Stéphane Mallarmé
Please join the Workshop in Poetics on Tuesday, April 11, 6-8pm in the Terrace Room (Bldg. 460). Armen Davoudian (English) will be workshopping a paper on Robert Frost, which can be downloaded here. Professor Denise Gigante (English) will be responding.
“The object in writing poetry is to make all poems sound as different as possible from each other,” Robert Frost wrote, yet the only “way to read a poem in prose or verse is in the light of all the other poems ever written,” he said elsewhere. On the continuum stretching between what makes a poem radically itself and what makes it like every other poem, each one of Frost’s books of poetry will catch that different interval which, in turn, will make it unique: each will offer a different version of the delicately realized balance between the centripetal force of a book (its material, formal, and fictional boundedness) and the centrifugal force of its poems (their potential for excerption and redaction). This paper studies Frost’s first five volumes of poetry – how he put them together, with a careful eye toward each book’s separate identity, and how he took them apart for his first Collected Poems. The more general argument is that the poetry book or volume is an important unit or scale for the composition and reception of poetry but that its formal perimeters and generic conventions have been understudied. Historically, the early 20th century sees the book or volume, as a genre or form, come to absorb some of the ambitions traditionally exercised in the form of long, epic poems. Taking a page from Edgar Allan Poe and Harold Bloom’s argument that ever since Milton (or for Poe, always) it has been impossible, or at least appreciably more difficult, to write successful long poems, the paper finds in Frost's tendency to assemble and disassemble books of poems a poetics caught between antithetical gestures for and against revelation, or apocalypse.
If you are pressed for time, please feel free to skip pages 12-18 (marked “SKIP”). These pages are on Frost’s first four volumes; the remainder is on his fifth volume; and the pages leading up are a general introduction on the topic.
Armen Davoudian is a PhD candidate in English, with a focus on modern poetry, and a project on the poetry book or volume as an important form for the production, reception, and interpretation of poetry. He edits the translations section of Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism & Translation.