New Clear Forms: American Poetry and Cold War Culture

University of Glasgow, 11th and 12th September 2009

Speaking in 1950 at a conference called "The Defence of Poetry," Randall Jarrell talks with despair of the new advert-ridden media which, in his view, had 'destroyed, in a great many people, even the capacity for understanding real poetry, real art of any kind.' The Cold War period in American Culture is renowned for its anti-intellectualism, consumerism, isolationist politics and nuclear threat; yet, despite fears of the poet’s obsolescence, it was also a remarkably diverse and prolific period for American poetry. As well as Jarrell's own "Middle Generation," the period between 1945 and 1990 saw the emergence of movements such as Black Mountain, the New York School and the San Francisco Renaissance.

New Clear Forms is an international 2-day conference to be held at the University of Glasgow on 11th and 12th September 2009. It aims to explore the poetic responses to national and international affairs of this era, in a bid to further understand the deep and complex relations between propaganda and private consciousness, rebellion and art, nation and self.

* UPDATE, JUNE 2010: Audio files of Yusef Komunyakaa's reading, Michael Schmidt's and Adam Piette's lectures are now available to listen to online - please click here *

Confirmed speakers include:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, whose volumes include Copacetic (1984),  I Apologise for the Eyes in My Head (1986) and, most recently, Warhorses (2008).

Professor Adam Piette, who has published widely on British and American poetry and whose book The Literary Cold War: 1945 to Vietnam is scheduled for release later this year.

The literary historian, editor and poet Professor Michael Schmidt, whose works include The Resurrection of the Body (2007), The Lives of Poets (1999) and the ongoing series The Story of Poetry.

The director/producer Colin Still, whose work includes the Modern American Poets series for Channel 4, No More to Say & Nothing to Weep For: an Elegy for Allen Ginsberg and, more recently, Abstract Alchemist of Flesh, a film on Michael McClure.

Professor Geoff Ward, who had published two monographs on poetry from the cold war period: Statutes of Liberty: The New York School of Poets (2000) and Language Poetry and the American Avant-Garde (1993).

© Bernie Boston, courtesy of The Digital Journalist

This conference is generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Association for American Studies and the Graduate School of Arts and Humanities.