“A nomadic poetics will cross languages,” states Pierre Joris, “not just translate, but write in all or any of them.” His foreshadowing of contemporary trends brings us to consider the stakes of multilingual fluency in works by Anne Tardos, Uljana Wolf, Jérôme Game, and Erin Mouré, among others. If the Modernists commonly tied multilingualism to erudite allusions, what forms do polyglot poets today use to restore cultural specificity? How do multilingual practices reframe figures of the foreign(er) and translatability? What reading communities do such works engender? Can multilingual poetry published in Anglophone countries resist becoming a trope of global culture?
This panel seeks to investigate the role of contemporary poetry written in several idioms in addition to English for articulating a politics of resistance to the monolingual specter haunting the historical now. Multilingual fluency in the works that interest us often gets deployed in conjunction with grammatical variation and neologisms to create sites of encounter with foreignness and honor cultural specificity.
Recalling precursor works that pollinate non-standard English practices with innovative visual and phonic procedures (Gertrude Stein), these poetries disavow the cosmopolitan ethos (and subtending racial and class politics) of high-modernist multilingualism (T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound). Often born out of exilic displacement and fraught with national language politics (as in the case of Quebecois poetry), the works under consideration reveal their seams and unraveled stitches in politically conscious – if sparingly militant – forms. Unsurprisingly, their authors are also prolific translators who choose to thematize translation in their works, not as a paradigm of utopian correspondence among languages, but rather, as a commons of linguistic and cultural variation. These poetries, in which English is made to appear strange in syntax and in sound, alternatively reward their audience with moments of linguistic discovery and linguistic humility.
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