The Argotist Online
The Academisation of Avant-Garde Poetry
(My response to a critique by Seth Abramson of this Introduction can be found here)
Poetry Wide Open: The Otherstream (Fragments In Motion)
with the issue of certain types of avant-garde poetry as not yet having found favour within the
academy, or with
poetry publishers of academically “sanctioned” avant-garde poetry. The
damaging aspects of this exclusion, and the concept of an “approved” versus
an “unapproved” avant-garde poetry, are also examined in the essay. And
these things could well be described as “the academisation of avant-garde
Academic poetic output is operating to a healthy extent in the US, where university creative writing departments are flourishing. The University of Pennsylvania has its Kelly Writers House programme, its PennSound website and its Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, all sympathetic to academic avant-garde poetry. The University of Pennsylvania also edits Jacket2, an influential online poetics website, which was formerly called Jacket, and which was edited by the independent John Tranter before he passed it over to the university. And similar things are happening in the UK, with various institutions such as the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre at Birkbeck University, the North West Poetry and Poetics Network at Manchester Metropolitan University, the MA Creative Writing: Innovation and Experiment course at Salford University and the Poetry and Poetics Research Group at Edge Hill University; all of which promote academic avant-garde poetry. The coordinator of the latter is also a co-editor of the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, about which a revealing discussion can be found here.
Growing out of the maelstrom of academic avant-garde poetic patronage in the UK, are two closely affiliated organisations: The Other Room reading series and Knives Forks and Spoons Press, whose organisers have close links to the MA Creative Writing: Innovation and Experiment course at Salford University, several students of which are published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press and promoted at The Other Room. The extent of this affiliation can be seen in an article at Salford University’s website about Scott Thurston, who runs the MA Creative Writing: Innovation and Experiment course. See here.
could say that the term "avant-garde" has now, essentially, been
appropriated by the academy, and, as such, has become associated with the sort
of poetic writing practices that could be fairly said to represent
“establishment” poetry, to the extent that the historical resonances of the
term “avant-garde” have become meaningless.
The ultimate concern regarding the academisation of avant-garde poetry, is that a two-tier system is being created, comprising of experimental poetry that is officially sanctioned, or legitimised, by the academy, and an experimental poetry that is not. The practitioners of the latter are excluded for various reasons (some possibly to do with their not having the “right” literary or academic credentials) but the main reason is that the poetry is seen as being too “primitive” or not as “knowing” as the more schooled sorts of academically sanctioned experimental poetry currently nurtured on some MA Creative Writing Courses geared towards experimental poetry.
Argotist Online feature presents Berry’s essay, the responses to it from poets
and academics it was first shown to, and an interview with Berry where he
addresses some of the criticisms voiced in these responses.