Campus News

Poetics Program celebrates silver anniversary with lecture, conference

Robert Creeley by Elsa Dorfman. Portrait taken in 1972.

By BERT GAMBINI

Published March 24, 2016

“This is an opportunity to acknowledge and embrace the legacy of Robert Creeley, who will be remembered as one of the most pre-eminent American poets.”
Myung Mi Kim, professor of English and director
Poetics Program

Acclaimed poet and novelist Nathaniel Mackey will deliver the UB Poetics Program’s inaugural Robert Creeley Lecture in Poetry and Poetics as part of the English department’s Celebration of Poetry on April 8.

The celebration, which marks the Poetics Program’s 25th anniversary, begins at 2 p.m. at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Mackey’s lecture, “Breath and Precarity,” is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

Mackey, the Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, is a National Book Award winner and recipient of the Yale Bollingen Prize for American Poetry and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

The lecture and a reception are free and open to the public.

Creeley (1926-2005), a former SUNY Distinguished Professor and author of more than 60 books of poetry and criticism, served as Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetics at UB and was a faculty member at the university from 1966 to 2003, when he left to become a Distinguished Professor at Brown University.

“This is an opportunity to acknowledge and embrace the legacy of Robert Creeley, who will be remembered as one of the most pre-eminent American poets,” says Myung Mi Kim, a professor in the Department of English and the director of the Poetics Program.

In addition to the lecture, Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor, and Diane Christian, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, will present their collaborative film of Creeley, “Willy’s Reading,” followed by a reading by the winner of the UB English department/Poetics and riverrun poetry contest.

UB Poetics Program’s inaugural Robert Creeley Lecture in Poetry and Poetics poster.

The Creeley lecture is part of four days of programming, beginning with “Robert Creeley and France” at 3:30 p.m. April 7 at the Buffalo Marriott Niagara, 1340 Millersport Highway adjacent to the North Campus.

Hosted by Jean-Jacques Thomas, UB Distinguished Professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the event includes a translation dialogue between Belgian poet Jean Daive, who has translated many of Creeley’s poems into French, and Norma Cole, an American poet who has translated many of Daive’s poems into English.

The events conclude with a two-day academic conference, “Poetics: (The Next) 25 Years” on April 9-10.

“This has generated interest beyond what we had imagined,” says Cristanne Miller, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Edward H. Butler Professor of English.

“There are now about 250 poets and critics of contemporary poetry who will be coming to UB to engage in a conversation about the history of this program, why it has mattered and where they see the future of poetry and poetics going.”

Founded in 1991, by Creeley, Susan Howe, Dennis Tedlock, Charles Bernstein and Raymond Federman, the English department’s Poetics Program draws upon critics and scholars from comparative literature, romance languages, art history, American studies, philosophy, music and media study.

“The Poetics Program was a way of formalizing what was already an extremely active and innovative writing scene at UB,” says Miller.

“This group wanted an interdisciplinary approach to literary, cultural and textural studies that enabled them to focus collectively on creative and critical activity within the process of learning, thinking and writing.”

Miller says the Poetics Program continues to be one of the most celebrated aspects of the Department of English, each year attracting some of the most talented applicants to the university’s PhD program.

“From its inception, the Poetics Program has sought to problematize ideologies embedded in language and to invite second reflection on the materiality of language as a counter to capitalist, hegemonic cultural practices.” says Kim.

As the program came together, Kim says it also brought together kindred spirits who were thinking about these issues on a large-scale political level, but also on the level of making literature.

“The Poetics Program mobilizes the adjacency of the practice of language and the making of poetry in the service of social and artistic othering,” says Kim.

Marking the Poetics Program’s anniversary allows for an intersection of creativity from spaces that don’t always intersect: those who make poetry, those who study poetry and those who represent poetry’s audience.

“This allows us to think about the work of poetry as broadly as possible,” says Kim.