Matthew Kilbane (University of Notre Dame)
A widely cited NEA report from 2018 indicates that more Americans are reading poems now than at any point in recent memory, a phenomenon linked to the astonishing success of “Instapoets” like Rupi Kaur, The New Republic’s “Write of the Decade,” and to poetry’s circulation online more generally. It would seem that anyone seeking to write the material history of poetry’s present must account for the apparently felicitous relationship between poetic forms and social media. If literary critics have not done so yet, it’s only because such a task demands that we reimagine our literary archives to accommodate a public refashioning of what poems are, who writes them, how they circulate, and why they matter.
This panel convenes literary critics, media scholars, and poets themselves to study how platforms for digital “prosumption” and online networking are transforming the social life of contemporary poetry. We ask to what extent the participatory dynamics of Web 2.0 now condition the politics of contemporary poetry, where “politics” signifies both the institutional lifeforms of poetry’s production and circulation, and the ostensible public efficacy of poems themselves. We consider how poetry’s relationships to activist praxis and to social movements like Black Lives Matter in the U.S., for example, are mediated by social media. Moreover, to the degree the protocols of “surveillance” or “platform capitalism” driving corporations like Facebook themselves inflect literary cultures online, we study how poems respond to these new formations of capital. To pursue these questions, we aim to traverse methodological territories, from literary and cultural studies to critical media theory and the computational humanities. Indeed we hope this panel will exemplify the reimagined forms of literary criticism required by the challenge of studying poetry’s networked future.
All papers on the subject of contemporary poetry and social media are warmly welcomed.