Academic journal article Liminalities

Why 'Poetry Worlds'?

Academic journal article Liminalities

Why 'Poetry Worlds'?

Article excerpt

What is poetry? Who makes it and why? How is poetry produced, and who determines the terms and conditions of its production? These questions are based on the rather broad premise that poetry is, in fact, made or produced by individuals and groups working with particular goals in mind. Often such goals intersect with broader issues of community construction, group membership, inclusion and exclusion, identity making and personal and social empowerment, all of which manifest in various forms of poetic practice. Poetry, in other words, is a social activity that involves any number of people, organizations, resources, routines and conventions configured in various ways to support different forms of poetic production. In short, poetry happens within poetry worlds.

We are indebted to sociologist Howard Becker (1982) and his concept of 'art worlds' for the concept of 'poetry worlds' and its organizing principle. Drawing on examples from music and the visual arts, Becker argued in Art Worlds that "all artistic work, like all human activity, involves the joint activity of a number, often a large number, of people" (p. 1). The usual results or products of that activity - paintings, sculptures, photographs, books, song albums, musical performances and so on - show "signs of that cooperation" and "patterns of collective activity we can call an art world" (p. 1). Becker argues further that what we often take to be the definitive mark of artistic work, the artwork itself, exists as a particular instance of art world activity assuming a given form in the context of much broader collaborations and interactions. Art Worlds is thus a primer on how to study the "core activity" of artistic work by looking at the contributions of all those who participate in an art world's "characteristic conventions" (p. 35).

By examining the 'core activities' of particular poetry worlds, we can learn a great deal about how poetry is performed and produced in different locales and under widely different circumstances. Exposing these core activities helps foreground the cultural politics of poetry communities, the ways in which poetry world participants or members define poetry and performance, the communicative mediums through which poetry and poetic discourse are expressed, and the cultural, social and political meanings of poetry world production in relation to larger social forces and concerns, such as race, class and gender. In short, we opt to use the word 'world' to connote a wide range of human interactions among specific groups of human actors. The term also conjures a given imagined space and a corresponding set of worldviews, and it is through the production of poetry that these worldviews are created and sustained within larger cultural contexts.

In short, we define 'poetry world' as an emergent cultural constellation of individuals who come together around a particular form of poetic activity in particular times, places and spaces. The different kinds of 'coming together' that lead to poetry world formations are not necessarily limited to pre-existing social networks, groups or communities of practice. A 'world' can imply either a broadly imagined space whose inhabitants share an assumed sense of size, borders, completeness and wholeness or a very particular space or locale equipped with a contingent set of conventions, practices and rituals that may or may not resemble those found in other domains. Moreover, a 'poetry world' subsumes multiple forms of community interaction while remaining open and inclusive enough - as both conceptual framework and metaphor - to allow for wideranging responses to and interpretations of poetic activity that pivot on a range of media-from newer digital, online and televisual acts, to older face-to-face acts and text-based forms. Popular poetry movements in recent decades - the challenge of spoken word to the canon, for example - underscore the limitations of tracking the meanings of poetry as an individual and/or book-bound event. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.