Eric Schmaltz (Brock University)
“Experiment,” suggests Joan Retallack, “is a reaching out to experience things that cannot be grasped merely by examining the state of our own minds.” Here, Retallack is working toward an incisive description of experimental writing’s relationship to scientific experiments. Experimental poetry and science share, according to Retallack, a tendency to engage diverse forms of change, what she calls “an interrogative dynamic.” For this roundtable, we draw a third component into this confabulation by citing moments of crisis as potentially homologous engagements with interrogative dynamics. Within the folds of crisis, past experiences can become a palimpsest and subjects must traverse the unknown. This proposal for a roundtable session calls for engaging presentations on the topics of writing, experiment, and crisis that are situated at the intersection of the 2021 NeMLA conference theme of "Tradition and Innovation." In particular, we ask: what responsibilities do innovative forms of poetry––poetry that engages “interrogative dynamics”––have during times when familiar social, political, and ecological phenomena are defamiliarized by external factors? How can poetry’s documentary, material, language- and sound-based strategies be mobilized to enact new modes of thinking through and against crises? How can inventive forms enact or approximate a truth or truthiness of a disaster to produce new worlds of knowledge?
We seek to curate a roundtable discussion composed of poets and academics, who engage with the ephemeral, enduring, sonic, social, conceptual, or visual registers of poetry within the unfolding conditions of crisis. In particular, we call for abstracts between 200 and 300 words on American, Canadian, Indigenous, or Transnational poetries in English that are conversant with the notion of "crisis" and the experiment. Abstracts may focus on experimental writings that push the bounds of literary conventions including poetries that incorporate ephemeral documents, sound recordings, mycological poetries, scientific storytelling, site-specific works, Indigenous poetry, collage, and ecopoetry.