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There is no such thing as repetition

Detail from Dmitrii Prigov, Vosemnadtsataia azbuka: Kamen’ i krugi na vode
[Eighteenth alphabet: Stone and circles on water], samizdat artist’s book (Moscow, 1985)

Ada Smailbegović has written a wonderful review article in which she considers Make It the Same alongside Brian Kim Stefans’s book World Toys: Poetry and Technics. I’m grateful not only for the essay’s sustained engagement with the ideas at the heart of my book but also for placing it in such good company. Here’s the essay’s conclusion:

Through the layering of these examples, Make It the Same seeks to “unravel the false opposition between identity and copy. . . . trac[ing] . . . a range of aesthetics, languages, and cultural contexts that are not usually linked and that are sometimes … assumed to be diametrically opposed” (155). In other words, Edmond draws on formal analysis of a poetic methodology and its effects to explain how certain historically entrenched configurations within the history of poetics need to be rethought. In Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry (2014), Dorothy Wang critiques precisely such a historical entrenchment, which has pitted the avant-garde tradition in poetry against more lyrical or expressive modes. This division has often placed Asian American and African American poets at an impasse where their work is read solely through questions of identity, within the rubric of the lyric as a form of self-expression, and without much attention to poetic form. Conversely, if these poets have been situated within the avant-garde, little attention has been paid by critics to questions of identity in their work, with a myopic attention to ideas of experimentation with poetic form. In contrast, Wang argues that “a poem’s use of form is inseparable from the larger social, historical, and political contexts that produced the poet’s subjectivity” (xxii). In exploring the relationship between form and the use of recursive and iterative methods in poetry as ways of investigating the constitution of identity and its open-endedness in time, both in its historical and philosophical dimensions, Make It the Same and Word Toys belong to a new moment in poetry criticism, one in which studies of form refigure the archive, undoing longstanding divisions between experimentation and expression.

You can read the full essay here.


Published by Jacob Edmond

Jacob Edmond is associate professor in English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He is the author of Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media (Columbia University Press, 2019), A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature (Fordham University Press, 2012), and of numerous essays, which have appeared in journals such as Comparative Literature, Contemporary Literature, Poetics Today, Slavic Review, and The China Quarterly.

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