More Than A Manifesto: The Poet’s Essay

General Programming

March 3, 2018 Saturday, 11:00am–8:00pm EST Lenfast Center for the Arts, Columbia University
  • School of the Arts
  • The Writing Program

Poetry as both a form and genre has many possibilities to exist within; however, poetry oftentimes has the burden to have an argument and a set of imagery and meanings that are preconceived and placed within the poem. In this way, poetry often gets conflated with writing a thesis or project, and the poet simply the presenter of perfectly argued language. In addition, when poets attempt to bridge the gap between genres and write within the contemporary essay form, they are tasked to construct perfect arguments there as well and avoid the associative and aesthetic logic that makes poems important. The term essay itself was coined by Michel de Montaigne in the 1500s, and it comes from the French word, essai, which means to test or experiment with what one knows as a learning tool (and is in some opposition to the terms we use to discuss the essay now, such as thesis).

The "More Than A Manifesto" symposium will explore the possibilities inherent in this original conception of the essay, and ask esteemed poets to come together and discuss what a poet’s essay can do in 2018 and how poets themselves can resist the pressure to have theses or arguments in all forms of writing. The day will be organized around three themes: "Logic, Aesthetics, Meaning, and Memory in a Poem-Essay," "The Essay, The Manifesto, and The Poetic Imagination," and "Contradictions, The Sea, and The Snow: A Poem-Essay as the Open Space," and " Presenters will respond to these themes with original work and also engage in collaboration and conversation. The day will culminate with a keynote speech by Fred Moten. Eventually, the poets' original writing for the event will be compiled into a book.

With generous funding of a Lenfest Junior Faculty grant

  • Speaker Fred Moten Professor of English University of California