I’m delighted to see that issue 2 of Internationale Zeitschrift für Kulturkomparatistik / International Journal for Comparative Cultural Studies is now online here. Edited by Ralph Müller and Henrieke Stahl, this special is entitled “Contemporary Lyric Poetry in Transitions between Genres and Media” and includes a range of exciting new work, such as an essay on “Contemporary Russian Poetry and the Musical Avant-Garde” by Ilya Kukulin, and an essay on “Political Video Poetry in Russia” by Klavdia Smola. I’m honoured to have my own essay on “Making It News in Contemporary Poetry” in such company. My essay concludes:
To pick up a print newspaper today, let alone to turn it into a work of literature, is increasingly an act of nostalgia, a reference to a time long gone. And yet, as I have argued here, poets and writers continue to turn to the texts and collage-like structure of the news because they provide a vital means for negotiating a world of proliferating media. While the collaging of the news is a centuries-old practice and one that was already substantially explored in the first half of the twentieth century, it has taken on renewed resonance in recent decades as writers negotiate increasingly complex and global media contexts, rising nationalisms, political polarization, and news events with worldwide repercussions from the global financial crisis to Covid-19. The ability to negotiate multiple juxtaposed sources of information from around the world has become more, not less, relevant in our current era of globalization and digital networks. Evincing this ongoing relevance, the year that the global financial crisis reached its peak was also the year that the Sichuan earthquake video poems circulated virally and that the “Cross It Out” project took place. That same year, Lvovsky published “In Other Words,” and, citing the poem, Kuzmin hailed a new tendency in Russian poetry.
We could treat these contemporary poetic negotiations of the news as an extension of the modernist turn to new forms of fragmented subjectivity in response to the impossibility of comprehending an increasingly complex world. We can, for instance, read Hsia Yü’s text as staging a lyric subject whose own words are visible only in the repetition, selection, or negation of the words of others. Such a lyric reading for poetic subjectivity remains possible for all the works mentioned here, including those by Hsia Yü, Lin Yaode, Yan Jun, Lvovsky, Medvedev, Prigov, Goldsmith, and Stefans.
Yet, as I have argued, any inward-looking focus on the lyric subject, however diffuse, must be tempered by an outward-looking recognition of how the poetry of the news presents the lyric as collectively constructed by multiple authors and readers and from various media, genres, and art forms, including poetry, contemporary art, filmmaking, music, journalism, digital and social media, and live performance. For Fredric Jameson, the modernist artist responded to the overwhelming complexity of global networks by turning to the subjective: to “a tiny corner of the social world” and the inner life of the individual. Jameson can only make this claim by sidelining modernist engagements with the collage-like structure of the news. Contemporary poets, by contrast, extend this engagement, decoupling their poetic texts from lyric subjectivity so that they become instead a means of negotiating the multiple texts and global networks of contemporary media. Contemporary news poems show another side of modernism, one that is still with us today: the turn not inwards but outwards to the myriad news stories and feeds that constitute the collective text of our time.
You can read the full essay here.