This new talks series on queer poetics is poised, like Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s work itself, to potentially suspend various foreclosures of meaning that usually happen when we talk about contemporary poetics. Just a few of these obstacles include reification of concepts already prevalent in today’s MFA programs, predictable uses of the hermeneutics of suspicion, and a lingering blockage around the form of the poetics manifesto. With Frank O’Hara’s “Personism” held prominently in mind as a more generative example, I want to try and create a space in which what Sedgwick called the reparative impulse can be just as important as these other types of reasoning, a space in which we can pause to attend to the idiosyncrasies and capaciousness of the individual writer, in this case the individual queer writer, and who knows what larger implications will occur as a result. In the Introduction to her book Tendencies (from Duke University Press), Sedgwick writes “I know Tendencies sounds like a title for Walter Benjamin essays—really it’s channeled from Dame Edna Everage.” And so it might be with this series, inspired by Eve who was a great friend to and fan of poets, and a poet herself.
But really, queer poetics will be any damn thing it wants to be; violet speech cannot be legislated. In her book Manifesto: A Century of Isms, Mary Ann Caws smartly and critically defines the medium of the manifesto, the usual means by which poetics is transmitted, with a certain amount of appreciative ambivalence: “It can start out as a credo, but then it wants to make a persuasive move from the ‘I believe’ of the speaker toward the ‘you’ of the listener or reader, who should be sufficiently convinced to join in.” I imagine the ground for TENDENCIES: Poetics & Practice stretched between that description and Sedgwick’s own comment that “’I’ is a heuristic; maybe a powerful one.” In the capacious spirit of Eve, I want to hear names for things we almost know but don’t have language to describe yet, the way a sentence in Proust unfolds, nudges, hints, and predicts. As curator, I want to learn from this series something about poetry and poetics that I don’t know yet.