And now, for your reading pleasure, three new poems from some of the most gifted new poetic voices active in our American academies:
"Trace(s), fragment(s), remain(s)"
Ways of knowing, ways of doing
Systems, methods, processes
Impressions, inscriptions, recordings
Photography, analog and digital
Secrets, enigmas, decoding
Bodies : materiality/ spectrality
Screens, digital traces
Accounts, eyewitness and otherwise
Marks, tracks, signs
Style, stylus, pen
Death, steles, tombs
Hyphens / parentheses / blanks
Past / present
Reality / virtuality
Unity / diversity
Events / accidents / crises
Nature / destiny
Continuity / discontinuity
Memory / forgetting
Transmission, passing, surpassing
Voices, subjects, presence
Sites of passage, sites of passages
Trails, wakes, furrows, lines
"(An)Aesthetic of Absence"
The ethics, politics, morality of absence
Absent signifiers, absent texts
The anti-aesthetics of absence
Authorship in death, in exile, in absentia
Absent God(s), authors, voices
Absent senses and questions of ability/disability
Trace and absence (Derrida)
Absence of consciousness; consciousness of absence
Numbness, lack of feeling (momentary or permanent)
Absence of reality: simulation and simulacra
"Enough is (Not) Enough"
Luxury, indulgence, waste
Hoarding, accumulating, greed
Deviant bodies, gluttony, addiction
Transgressions, sins, breaches of decorum
Obsessions and compulsions
Repetition, boredom, tedium
Fragments, ruins, garbage
Inflation, value, debt
Hate, war, violence
If you haven't already figured it out, these three poems are not actually poems, but are lists of possible topics (or "axes of analysis") for papers to be given at academic conferences at North American universities (Georgia Tech, University of Toronto, and University of Washington respectively), culled from "calls for papers" sent out to my own academic department's email list. As hard as it may be to believe, the titles are not my own satiric creation, but are the actual titles for each conference; it is mere coincidence that all three utilize the Superfluous Academic Parenthesis—a formal innovation developed in the late-twentieth century in order to avoid clear meanings, and to give a title an air of multivalent indeterminacy, handy for cloaking a lack of actual intellectual content. These lists are invariably preceded by the qualification: "possible topics may include, but are in no way limited to...," as if the limitation of a closed set of possible topics were an affront to intellectual freedom.
These lists of possible topics are part of the general organizing principle of academic conferences, the main purpose of which is to avoid clear, specific topics which may bring together scholars working in similar areas. Instead, the idea is to bring together work related by an abstract conceptual rubric—the intellectual creation of the conference's conveners—in relation to which several papers which have nothing to do with each other may be made to appear as if they related to each other. Not only this, but the thesis is then put forward that these forced conceptual interrelations are actually productive, and help everyone present to arrive at a radical new understanding of something-or-other. Papers on the Berlin wall, Lewis and Clark, the sociology of medieval bridge design, and cellular osmosis can be presented in quick succession under the analytical grouping concept of "frontiers". This kind of intellectualized montage technique is presented for an audience of willing listeners in order to enlighten the communal understanding of "frontiers," challenging and perhaps changing perceptions of this difficult and divisive concept. A brief look in the dictionary is, however, often more enlightening.
But at least we get some exciting poetry out of it. For those searching, this is where today's true avant garde is found: absurdists and surrealists disguised as eager young literary pseudo-scientists. Lux et veritas!