*Race and Poetry and Poetics in the UK:*
Legacies of Colonialism
*27-28 October 2018*
*Queens CollegeUniversity of Cambridge*
Against the contemporary reality of Brexit and an openly racist and sexist
US president, alongside draconian detention and deportation policies,
anti-black and anti-Muslim violence in the UK and US, and the ongoing
neglect of indigenous people’s dispossession, it is time to stop doing
poetry and poetry studies as usual.
The work of Black British poets and thinkers has been crucial for more than
half a century in linking the issues of race, ethics, and aesthetics.
Recent events, projects, and publications centring writers of colour in the
UK include Vahni Capildeo winning the Forward Prize, ‘decolonise the
curriculum’ campaigns at various universities, Octavia Poetry Collective,
the Ledbury scheme for emerging BAME critics, Out of Bounds anthology and
the subsequent Beyond Bounds tour, The Good Immigrant anthology, Media
Diversified news outlet, Gal-Dem magazine, Freed Verse: Diversity in
British Poetry report, and Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry’s
issue on race. And yet, it is not unusual for poetry publications,
scholarship, and academic conferences to remain quiet on the issue of race,
especially racism. For example, while the relationship between
‘experimental’ or ‘difficult’ poetry and capitalism has been the subject of
much compelling critical writing in the UK, little attention has been given
to poetry’s relationship to race, racism, and the legacies of colonialism.
White settler colonialism is a race-based system of capitalist exploitation
and expropriation, and poetry is not simply an accessory to the system, it
is an indispensable arm.
This conference is a follow up to the first ‘Race & Poetry & Poetics in the
UK’ symposium that took place in London in February 2016. We call for the
radical re-thinking of the ways in which poetry and poetics are conceived,
analysed, and discussed in the UK, of the ways in which poetry and poetics
are undergirded by legacies of colonialism in terms of racialized belief
systems, practices, and sciences. We do not propose ameliorative and
tokenizing ‘diversity’ practices, but a wholesale overturning and
rethinking of ‘English-language’ ‘Anglo-American’ poetry and poetics from
the foundations up, taking account of racial ideologies, which cannot be
thought separately from class and gender. We aim to expose the liberal
myths of multiculturalism, ‘colour-blindness’, and ‘post-racial society’,
and to explore how the discourse of ‘diversity’ impedes frank discussions
of racism in literary and academic contexts. This conference is about
radical politics as much as it is about radical poetics.
How do we understand the promulgation of categories and false binaries in
our thinking about poetry and poetics? What are the implicitly and
explicitly racialized assumptions about terms such as ‘High Theory’,
‘avant-garde’, ‘experimental’, ‘lyric’, ‘spoken word’, ‘identity’,
‘universality’, ‘technique’, ‘rigour’, ‘autobiography’, ‘good’ and ‘bad’
What are the relationships between Black British poetry and theory, and
avant-garde poetry and theory in the UK?
How do small and large press publishing and distribution practices
reproduce and/or counter white coteries, exclusion, and racism (for
example, New Beacon Books and Bogle-L’Ouverture have been critical in
amplifying the work of poets of colour)?
What archival work has been done already and still needs to be done to
recover and reframe the work of poets of colour in the UK?
How have cliques, coteries, and poetry communities worked to exclude (and
to determine the conditions of inclusion for) poets of colour? How do these
‘gift economies’ work in positive and negative ways?
What does the discourse of ‘intersectionality’ enable and delimit in
discussions of poetry and poetics? How have critics and activists utilised
the term ‘intersectionality’ as a form of abstract theorising and
value-signalling, occluding the specificities of race and racism, in
relation to class, ableism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia, rather
than serving to illuminate those specificities?
What is the tenability of categories such as ‘British’ or ‘Anglo-American’
when enlisted to the question of race and identity constituted and affected
as they are by poetic traditions from around the world, which are often
denied autonomy of self-intellection as well as a place in our teaching
canons only because they are from outside metropolitan Europe and America?
How do ameliorative and tokenizing ‘diversity’ practices often hold us up
from rethinking ‘English-language’ and ‘Anglo-American’ poetry from the
foundations up, especially in the context of recent academic protests to
How can eco-poetics take account of race?
How do poetry and poetics continue to serve colonialist ideals,
institutions, and forms of violence?
Following the rise in popularity of eugenics in alt-right/neo-fascist
contexts and in academic contexts (for example, the London Conference on
Intelligence at UCL) how do we account for relationships between literary
methodologies and eugenics (for example, English neurophysiologist Charles
Sherrington’s influence on I.A. Richards’ Practical Criticism). How do we
decolonise methodologies of close reading?
What are the possibilities of decolonised and/or anti-colonial Modernist
and Postmodernist poetry and poetics? How might poets of colour be centered
in discussions of formally innovative poetry, rather than serving as
Why are translation and multilingual poetics markers of education, culture,
and worldliness in the work of some poets, and markers of difference,
segregation, and exoticism in other poets?
What is poetry’s role in social justice and movements against racism,
imperialism, and white supremacy, if any?
*We are interested in academic papers and panels, roundtable discussions,
creative responses, and poetry readings and performances. We welcome
scholars inside and outside the academy, poets, critics, teachers,
librarians, publishers, editors, activists, students, and all others.*
*Please send 200-word proposals to [log in to unmask]
<[log in to unmask]> by 01 July 2018.*
*Visit our website www.rapapuk.com <http://www.rapapuk.com/> for more
information about the conference and the organising committee.*
*The Writer & The City: Kadija in The Gambia http://tinyurl.com/y9vzlpv8
*The Importance of Independent Black Publishing*
*Arts can save children, no matter what's going on in their homes. Afeni