A Poetry Reading with LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs | March 22, 2023, 5PM | Community Foundation Theater | Kenyon College

•March 18, 2023 • Leave a Comment

English Department’s Spring 2023 Series on Experimentation – University of South Alabama

•March 4, 2023 • Leave a Comment


•February 25, 2023 • Leave a Comment

I have some excerpts from my ongoing long poem “Disorientations” in Jonas Zdanys’s recent anthology Contemporary Surrealist and Magical Realist Poetry, which is an attempt to move our conceptions of lyric away from what Zdanys, in his introduction “The Lyric Imagination,” calls “self-absorption in the guise of epiphany” (16) and “self-indulgent stenography” (17) to “unusual and newly-defined angles of reflection” that is enabled by the surrealist lyric (17). It is odd, then, that surrealism figures very little in accounts of modern lyric poetry or theorizations of lyric. Indeed, surrealism is sometimes seen as lyric’s other. According to Alicia Ostriker, “In contrast to tragic and lyric modes, which persuade us that their visionary worlds are deeply true, and must be accepted, surrealism persuades us that its world is arbitrary and questionable” (qtd. in Gillian White, Lyric Shame 127).

from “Disorientations”

•February 24, 2023 • Leave a Comment

Since 2015, I’ve been working on a long poem called “Disorientations”; the latest excerpt from this project was just published at Big Other. Thanks to John Madera for hosting the work.

My essay “Towards a Disorientalist Poetics” goes into detail about how I’ve been putting this poem together.

Christine Imperial’s MISTAKEN FOR AN EMPIRE: A MEMOIR IN TONGUES (Mad Creek Books, 2023)

•February 24, 2023 • Leave a Comment

“Halt! Sinong binabantayan mo? Christine Imperial carries onto the page Kipling’s famous burden and the implications of her name: General Imperial and General MacArthur; a mother and a mirror; a white ex-girlfriend and You’re My Foreignoy/Foreignay. Incorporating images, newspaper headlines, and personal memories, she offers memoir as translation, reiteration, poetry, and hybrid desire for belonging. She reminds us: ‘the blueprint of a tongue is a crossfire.’ Drop everything and read this searing debut.” —Gabrielle Civil, author of the déjà vu: black dreams & black time

“In translating Kipling’s ‘The White Man’s Burden’ into Tagalog, Christine Imperial pries open this notoriously imperialist poem, annotating it with innovative writing full of peril, rebelliousness, and surprise. This dazzling debut is a major contribution to contemporary literary culture.” —Michael Leong

“Christine Imperial takes to task the misrecognitions so fundamental to the construction of personal identity and to the deployment of language in the world. Never aiming for transcendental insight, this work of poetry and memoir remains true to its original challenge to translate. A shining, subversive work.” —Jon Wagner

The Department of English welcomes Tomás Morín and Michael Leong | March 1 @ 5:00 p.m | Kenyon College

•February 22, 2023 • Leave a Comment

Date and Time: March 1 @ 5:00 p.m.

Where: Cheever Room, Finn House

Tomás Q. Morín is the author most recently of the poetry collection Machete and the memoir Let Me Count the Ways. He is co-editor, with Mari L’Esperance, of Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine and is translator of The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda, as well as the libretto Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance. His work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Nation, Poetry, Slate, and Boston Review. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. He teaches at Rice University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Michael Leong’s most recent books are Words on Edge (Black Square Editions, 2018), Contested Records: The Turn to Documents in Contemporary North American Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2020), and Sky-Quake: Tremor of Heaven(co∙im∙press, 2020) a co-translation, with Ignacio Infante, of Vicente Huidobro’s operatic long poem. He is Robert P. Hubbard Assistant Professor of Poetry at Kenyon College.

Documental Expertise

•February 11, 2023 • Leave a Comment

I got around to reading the current MLA Newsletter 54.4 (Winter 2022), which had been sitting on my desk, and found myself engaged with Paula M. Krebs’ column titled “Acknowledging Humanities Expertise.” She begins with a very clear demarcating sentence: “The humanities are not the arts.” As a poet/scholar/critic who works across the arts and humanities, I found myself at full attention. Krebs continues:

It’s easier to talk about the arts: everyone knows what music or poetry is. Humanists are trained in analysis and interpretation; they are not trained in aesthetic production. Sometimes it’s harder to be concrete in talking about philosophy or literary criticism. But what philosophers and literary critics do is just as essential as what musicians or poets do: they enable us to interpret the world around us and to posit a better one (1).

It struck me that many poets (concretely) bring analysis and interpretation into the aesthetic realm, (concretely) enabling us to interpret the world around us. My most recent monograph Contested Records: The Turn to Documents in Contemporary North American Poetry (U of Iowa P, 2020) is about a type of poetry that performs this cultural labor, which I call “documental poetry,” “a mode of writing that participates within an economy of documentality and monumentality in its use of prior records” (30). (For an excellent account of undocumentality, see John-Michael Rivera’s UNDOCUMENTS (U of Arizona P, 2021).) As a teacher of both poetry writing and poetry studies, I’d like to qualify Krebs: everyone thinks they know what music or poetry is, which is both an advantage and disadvantage. A great deal of my book is about poems that tend to fall outside the domain of the familiar (first-person, voice-driven lyricism). Here are a pair of paragraphs from my “Afterword”:

It is surely uncontroversial to say that the study of poetry, its interpretation and historicization, is a vital part of what we call the humanities. However, I wish to put a significant species of contemporary poetry writing—documental poetry—within the domain of humanistic study as well, an understanding that has significant implications for the future of the English department. In institutional terms, creative writing has existed as a discipline caught between the fine arts and the humanities. At the graduate level, creative writing is sometimes integrated within the larger structure of English, while at other schools, such as Columbia University, creative writing is housed within the School of the Arts (as opposed to its Department of English and Comparative Literature). James F. English observes, “To the extent that it may be considered a field of specialization within English studies . . . creative writing . . . has been dramatically outgrowing the rest of the discipline,” but he warns that creative writing, at an undergraduate level, might institutionally decouple from English, “advancing a pedagogy implicitly or explicitly hostile to that of literary studies.” The hostility of creative writing to literary studies, and to intellectualism more broadly, in MFA culture and mainstream poetry communities is already well-documented. But documental poetry suggests that creative writers, imagined as “public intellectuals,” intersect with scholars in English studies, and in the wider humanities, in their shared desire to endow [to quote Erwin Panofsky] “static records with dynamic life.” That contemporary poets have embraced “the work expended on material documentation” as a key modality of creative practice presents a crucial opportunity for English departments to foster [what English calls] “traffic between the curricula of reading and of writing” and to offer a compelling counter-model to creative writing as a fine art.


The concept of documental poetry not only reformulates the prevailing discourses about poetry’s utility (or futility) but enriches ongoing debates about the value of English studies and the humanities at large. In its engagement with the dynamics of cultural memory and forgetfulness, documental poetry makes the case for why poetry and the humanities matter. According to Erwin Panofsky, “the humanities endeavor to transform the chaotic variety of human records into what may be called a cosmos of culture.” Our cultural cosmos necessarily includes inconvenient truths and difficult histories that are—as documental poets such as Claudia Rankine, Dionne Brand, Mark Nowak, Vanessa Place, Layli Long Solider, Philip Metres, Solmaz Sharif, Carlos Soto Román, Caroline Bergvall, Robert Fitterman, and M. NourbeSe Philip prove—a matter of life and death.

This is all to say that I don’t disagree with Krebs. The humanities need all sorts of support–both rhetorical and material. Rather, I’d like to extend her attention-grabbing statement with an asymmetrical chiasmus: the humanities may not be the arts, but the arts can be the humanities. To paraphrase Ezra Pound out of context: “let there be commerce between them.”

Divya Victor – Poetry Reading – Kenyon College – Nov 3 – 5PM

•November 1, 2022 • Leave a Comment

Bruno Latour (1947-2022)

•October 9, 2022 • Leave a Comment

“In politics as in science, when someone is said to ‘master’ a question or to ‘dominate’ a subject, you should normally look for the flat surface that enables mastery (a map, a list, a file, a census, the wall of a gallery, a card-index, a repertory) and you will find it.”

“In our cultures ‘paper shuffling’ is the source of an essential power, that constantly escapes attention since its materiality is ignored.”

“Papers and signs are incredibly weak and fragile. This is why explaining anything with them seemed so ludicrous at first. La Pérouse’s map is not the Pacific, anymore than Watt’s drawings and patents are the engines, or the bankers’ exchange rates are the economies, or the theorems of topology are ‘the real world.’ This is precisely the paradox. By working on papers alone, on fragile inscriptions that are immensely less than the things from which they are extracted, it is still possible to dominate all things and all people.”

Bruno Latour’s “Drawing Things Together” was central in developing my thinking about the complex relationship between poetry and documentation, which led to my book Contested Records: The Turn to Documents in Contemporary North American Poetry (U of Iowa P, 2020).


•September 12, 2022 • Leave a Comment

I’ll be on two panels at ASAP on Saturday (9/17). Maybe I’ll see you there.