A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature

By Admussen, Nick | Chinese Literature Today, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature


Admussen, Nick, Chinese Literature Today


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Jacob Edmond. A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature. Nonfiction. New York. Fordham University Press. 2012. xv + 272 pages. $26.00. ISBN 9780823242603

The occasion of A Common Strangeness is a reformulation of literary identity and literary practice that took place after the Cold War. Edmond argues that the East/West, communist/capitalist binaries that dominated cultural logic during that period have evolved into a set of binaries that oppose the local to the global, the particular to the general, and the common to the strange. The goal of the book, however, is an opposition to those binaries: Edmond chooses avant-garde artists from many geographical and cultural backgrounds, some of whose poems and works were written long before the fall of the Berlin Wall, because they "provide largely neglected tools" for moving from the particularity of the individual to the broadness of community without engaging in global/local dichotomizing.

Each featured artist is associated with a particular tool. Chinese poet Yang Lian ... superimposes the location of his exile in New Zealand over the map of lost Beijing. Russian poet Arkadii Dragomosh chenko engages in a "co-response" to shifting political realities through correspondence with Lyn Hejinian; Hejinian, an American poet, uses conceptual and physical travel to Russia to estrange herself from falsely naturalized home categories. Chinese poet Bei Dao ... crafts multiple valent allegories that simultaneously serve the local and the global. Russian author Dmitri Prigov creates a thickly intersecting latticework of cultural and political expectations and subversions. American poet Charles Bernstein writes work that requires layered "ideological" (poem as social text) and "theological" (poem as aesthetic experience) readings. …

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