The Poetry Project


Critical Poesis — Workshop with Sara Jane Stoner

“Poetry begins with the willingness to subordinate whatever the hell it is that you have to say.”
– Fred Moten, Interview, Open House Poetry, July 20, 2015

“The three threads of thinking — metaphorical, historical, tangential — only make their case in combination — each kind of critical labor is necessary to the argument.”
– Hillary Gravendyk, “Uses of the Useless,” Jacket2, June 7, 2015

What needs and desires might usefully conflict or coexist between poetry and criticism? As a reader and poet, as a critic or reviewer, to whom or what do you turn to define or measure the area of your interest, frame a question, or ground your sense of authority or affiliation? What physical or intellectual or textual organs govern or inspire the “criteria” generating your response, your evaluation? And how does evaluation, whether praise or critique, reform or rewrite a work or phenomena? What’s hiding in plain sight in the evidence you choose or the judgments you make? What are the kinds of not-knowing you accept, elide, or hold sacred? What are the critical actions and analytical qualities of (recent) poetry, and how might they serve forms of criticism demanded by “literary” cultures of the present, let alone the present itself?

Over the course of five meetings we will work to develop an understanding of our individual and collective engagement with the current state of “critical genres” that embrace or border poetry or the poetic; we will read, write, and respond toward developing our own critical poetry and poetic criticism (in relation). To that end we will spend time: identifying poetic faculties we most value in terms of muscles and senses (thinking sounds and feeling ideas), centering both difference and the generative movement of poesis; working through the problem of the relationship between a writer’s identity and their presumptive or acknowledged audience; and reimagining and experimenting with modes or vehicles of publication or presentation in ways that might challenge conventional assumptions about who should write criticism, who criticism is for, and what it might do. This workshop will culminate in the option to collectively publish some of the work produced in an issue of the Poetry Project Newsletter, most likely in Fall of 2019. (Including readings by: Antena, Stephanie Burt, Michel de Certeau, Samuel Delany, Renee Gladman, Diana Hamilton, Wayne Koestenbaum, Brandon Kreitler, Fred Moten, Lisa Robertson, Richard Rorty, Wendy Trevino, Simone White, Raymond Williams, and others TBD.)