Open Form in American Poetry

Scholar, poet, and professor Burton Hatlen (1936–2008) taught at the University of Maine for many years. He also was the Director of the National Poetry Foundation, where he oversaw its long list of book and journal publications, including editing the ground-breaking collection, George Oppen, Man and Poet. Although Professor Hatlen’s scholarly writing and poetics were well-known through his many essays in literary journals, he never compiled a volume of his own essays, always anticipating a new area of research with new insights. Open Form in American Poetry is thus the first published one-author collection of Burton Hatlen’s scholarly writing.

Student and lifelong friend of Burton Hatlen, poet Bruce Holsapple earned a PhD from SUNY Buffalo. He worked for many years as a speech-language pathologist in central New Mexico. He is the author of seven books of poetry, the most recent, Wayward Shadow, published by La Alameda Press. Holsapple is also the author of the award-winning study, The Birth of the Imagination; William Carlos Williams on Form, published by the University of New Mexico Press.

To purchase, go to our online store.

Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s: Update

1990sThe National Poetry Foundation is delighted to announce that the following writers and scholars have agreed to honor us with their presence at the Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s conference this June 28-July 1, 2017.

Keynote Poets
Myung Mi Kim and Ron Silliman

Featured Writers
Dodie Bellamy, Lee Ann Brown, Benjamin Friedlander, Erica Hunt, Jennifer Moxley, Jena Osman, Prageeta Sharma, Rod Smith, James Thomas Stevens, David Trinidad, and Elizabeth Willis

Special Guests
Kevin Killian and Juliette Valéry

Special Event
Jayne Cortez, Adrienne Rich and the Feminist Superhero: The Poetics of Women’s Political Resistance, organized by Laura Hinton

Curator & Host of Late Night Readings
Jason Mitchell

Confirmed Panelists as of June 15

Charles Alexander, Brendan Allen, Jacquelyn Ardam, Mary Kate Azcuy, Jennifer Bartlett, John Beer, Ann Bolotin, James Brophy, Erika Jo Brown, Charmaine Cadeau, Eleanor Careless, Kristen Case, Genéve Chao, Carrie Conners, Sally Connolly, Stephen Cope, Jessica Cotton, Caroline Crew, Stephan Delbos, Joseph Donahue, Paul Eaton, Ed Foster, Maureen Gallagher, Kaplan Harris, Tessa Hathaway, Jeanne Heuving, Scarlett Higgins, Laura Hinton, Matthew Hofer, Bruce Holsapple, W. Scott Howard, Jill Hughes, Elisabeth Joyce, Megan Kaminski, Charles Kell, Rachel Kennedy, Burt Kimmelman, Kimberly Lamm, Katy Lederer, Kandace Lombart, Brandon Menke, Andrew Mulvania, David Need, Miriam Nichols, Janelle Poe, Scott Pound, Patrick Pritchett, Adra Raine, Saba Syed Razvi, Andrew Rippeon, Joseph Romano, Jeremy Schmidt, Susan M. Schultz, Mark Scroggins, Travis Sharp, Jonathan Skinner, Dale Smith, Laura T. Smith, Clinton Spaulding, Jessica Stark, Brian Kim Stefans, Susan Vanderborg, Ann Vickery, Laura E. Vrana, Mark Wallace, Don Wellman, Lesley Ann Wheeler, and Qinghong Xu.  

If you’d like to learn more about the conference, drop us a line at Day passes for non-presenters are available on a “pay as you wish” basis.

CfP: The Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s

The Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s – Call for Proposals
National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine
June 28 – July 1, 2017

The Editorial Collective of the National Poetry Foundation invites paper and panel proposals for the last in our sequence of “decade” conferences, to be devoted to the Poetry and Poetics of the 1990s, American and international, and to be held June 28 – July 1, 2017 on the flagship campus of the University of Maine System in Orono, Maine.

The NPF welcomes paper and panel proposals on any and all aspects of poetic practice in the decade of the 1990s. What emerged? What changed? What happened just out of frame? What connections brought poetry into dialog with other fields? What social and political contexts mattered most? What of the present can be traced back to that moment? What poets, poetic formations, tendencies in poetics warrant our continued attention? What accidents of reception might we now revisit and perhaps repair?

Prospective participants are encouraged to draw on the full range of archival resources in conceiving their projects, including the digital audio, digital video, and digital facsimile holdings now widely available on-line. Panels and papers that foreground the diversity of poetry practices and communities in the 1990s are especially welcome.

As with previous NPF conferences, the scholarly presentations and panels will be complemented by numerous poetry readings, including plenary readings by notable figures associated with the decade being explored.

Small-press and academic publishers are also invited to take part in our book fair.

Paper proposals consisting of a title and a brief (approx. 300 word) abstract should be directed to the NPF Editorial Collective at

Panel proposals should include a brief rationale for the envisioned grouping. Proposals for alternative forms of intellectual practice/presentation, such as roundtables or seminars, will be read with interest.

The extended (and firm) deadline for proposals is April 15, 2017. Requests for extensions should be directed to

Queries may be directed to any member of the Editorial Collective:

Carla Billitteri (
Steve Evans (
Benjamin Friedlander (
Jennifer Moxley (

 Visit npfconferences for information about previous NPF conferences and our Facebook page for updates about the upcoming one.

Announcing Paideuma 40 / Sagetrieb 20!


We are long overdue in announcing the combined publication of Paideuma 40 and Sagetrieb 20.

Information for ordering copies of the journals can be found HERE.

In the present volume—simultaneously published as Paideuma 40 and Sagetrieb 20—the National Poetry Foundation’s two journals are are joined in their labor for the first time within a single cover, in celebration of the late Burton Hatlen, Sagetrieb’s longtime editor.

Find below an excerpt from our editor’s preface to the current volume:

 The testimonials and essays that follow only begin to indicate Burt’s enduring influence on his former students and surviving colleagues. Edited by his longtime friend Demetres Tryphonopoulos, the Festschrift is further enriched with a version of Burt’s last editorial project: a selection of essays on George Oppen. At the time of his death, Burt was shaping these essays into a sequel to his own George Oppen: Man and Poet (1982), a foundational collection, a few of whose contributors also appear here. In his introduction to that vol- ume, Hatlen summed up his editorial perspective nicely—words well worth recalling in the context of this Festschrift: “If criticism is (as I believe) a dialectical mode of discourse, then disagreements such as those which appear in this volume should be welcomed as opening to further critical work. In any case, my goal here has been to let a hundred voices sing.” With the present volume, Sagetrieb now ceases publication. Burt helped to plan this conclusion and he hoped to see it through; his gathering of new essays on George Oppen was intended for the final issue. The work of the journal will continue, however, as it has for the past half-decade, within the pages of Paideuma, whose expanded man- date since volume 35 has covered all poetry in English from the twen- tieth and twenty-first centuries. Yet despite this continuity, the end of the journal will be met with sadness by the scholars it long served, who will remember a time when no other venue was available for their work. That the situation is so greatly improved makes the discontinu- ing of the journal a bittersweet sign of its success. Today, serious study of H.D., Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, the Objectivist poets, the language writers, and other once-marginal individuals and groups can be found in a broad range of journals, including the most prestigious in our discipline. Within this new environment, the main- tenance of two journals, never easy, ceased to be necessary. Moreover, the division of subjects between the two, ever evolving, had become quite fuzzy in recent years, fuzzy enough to make a combining of efforts logical as well as thrifty. Our decision to end Sagetrieb (unofficial for some time, as no new issue has appeared since 2006) was difficult to reach, but seems inevitable in retrospect.

Olson Centenary Conference

SUNY Buffalo hosted a conference in honor of Charles Olson’s 100th year this weekend.  The poster is attached below.  The event began on Thursday with a reading by poet and publisher Tom Raworth, who gave a reading at our conference on the poetry of the 1970s.  A look at the program shows a number of intriguing presentations by poets, editors, and scholars–and many who are some combination of the above. Another intriguing event was a five hour “marathon” reading of The Maximus Poems on Saturday.

Several NPF alumni presented at the conference:

Kaplan Harris, who recently contributed to Paideuma 36, presented on the Olson-Creely correspondence.  He is currently editing the forthcoming Selected Letters of Robert Creely. Here is a link to a preview of the forthcoming book in Jacket.  He also presented at our Poetry of the 1970s conference.

Don Byrd is another Paideuma alum who presented at the Olson conference.  His contribution to Paideuma an issue from farther back–he wrote in the Louis Zukofsky memorial issue, back in 1978.  He also contributed to Sagetrieb, in 1985.  He has also presented at our 1940s conference.  He will be presenting on Olson’s views of verse as “essential.”

Michael Boughn has contributed three articles to Sagetrieb–two on H.D. and one on William Carlos Williams.  He presented on poetics as transformation.  He is currently editing Robert Duncan’s H.D. Book–a project that this blogger is excited to see come to fruition.  The version floating around the internet is a real pain.

Our own Carla Billitteri also presented at the conference, on “Diversional Events: Singularity and Multiplicity in Olson’s Poetics.”

Inactual Olson

My understanding is that papers from the Olson conference mentioned here a few days ago will eventually be published in The Worcester Review. Carla Billitteri of the NPF editorial collective presented work in progress on “The Politics of the Inactual in Charles Olson’s Poetics” (the title in the program was a little different). Here’s her opening paragraph:

Olson discounts the very idea of nation throughout The Maximus Poems, and makes his case by ways of his own and other voices. Thus, for instance, in the concluding lines of a personal poem, “December 18th,” Olson indicts the idea of nationhood citing Melville’s Redburn: “We are not a narrow tribe of men … we are not a nation, so much as a world.” Nations, with their supposed — or, in so many cases, enforced — homogeneity of race, culture, ethnicity, and religion, are abstract “universals,” the product of “the big, false humanism” he systematically and relentlessly attacks in all his writings. Opposed to the coercive and homogeneous reality of nations is the fluid and heterogeneous reality of the polis. As envisioned by Olson, the polis is an imaginary construct that does not belong to any recognizable historical past, although the city of Gloucester is offered as a possible — but failed — model for such polis. “Gloucester,” Olson writes, “is heterogeneous and so can know polis / not as localism” — but Olson also makes clear that global capitalism breeds heterogeneity, and that this heterogeneity multiplies — rather than transforms — the capillary oppression of the nation-state, particularly the oppression of minority ethnic groups. Thus, the heterogeneity Olson finds in Gloucester partakes of these actual historical realities, but the polis does not, precisely because Olson’s polis is an imaginary construct, an inactual reality.

Here’s hoping all the work from the weekend sees print soon.

Paideuma Sighting

Nice to see an old issue of Paideuma cited by John Latta, one of our favorite bloggers — and a true library cormorant. The citation comes in a post titled “Pound au fond,” a meditation on Alice Steiner Amdur’s The Poetry of Ezra Pound (1936), a Radcliffe honors thesis published by Harvard when Amdur was 21 years old. Pound roasted the book in a letter to William Carlos Williams. Latta quotes that letter in full; he also digs out Pound’s scalding letter to Amdur, which was published in Paideuma 21.1-2 (1992).

The Paideuma text comes in two forms: a reproduction of the original typescript, and a transcript. There is also an introduction by Sebastian D. G. Knowles. To entice other library cormorants, here is an excerpt from that introduction:

In 1936, Alice Steiner Amdur completed her undergraduate thesis at Radcliffe College on The Poetry of Ezra Pound. Harvard University Press published the thesis as number 5 in a series of Radcliffe Honors Theses in English. This was of course a great honor, and the 21 year-old student sent a copy to William Carlos Williams, who liked it very much, and to Ezra Pound, who did not. …

The thesis begins as a measured appraisal of Pound’s early poetry. Short biographical chapters take the reader through the early influences of America, Provençe, and London, followed by a long and well-considered chapter on Imagism. … It is at the end of this chapter that Amdur begins to take issue with the poetry of Ezra Pound. The Cantos, she says, are “largely obscure or obscene,” the work of a “roaring madman.” The Hell Cantos, numbers 14 and 15, are neither “good poetry nor even — alas — good propaganda.” Cantos 8 through 11 are “just more talk,” “at once bewildering and disappointing.” Cantos 31 to 41 are ‘very poor.”

Reading the second half of Amdur’s thesis, one wonders what could have possibly possessed her to send Ezra Pound a copy. There is worse: Amdur compares Pound unfavorably with Eliot. … “Pound is vivid enough, but when we compare his laboriously accumulated filth with Eliot’s stark ‘That corpse you planted last year in the garden,’ we see the difference between a mind that hates and abuses and a mind that is horrified and can symbolize its horror in one unforegettable image.” Amdur’s point is well-taken by anyone who isn’t Pound.

The thesis ends, “Pound entered the service of English letters when the grate was cold. He stirred up the embers of poetry and kindled a flame that has lasted twenty years. If he seems outmoded now it is because the fire no longer needs his care, and he has run off to into the night after will-o’-the wisps.” … Ezra Pound hated that last sentence, and hated the whole thesis. It is as if Little red Riding Hood had thrown an incendiary bomb into grandmother’s house.

Pound takes six pages to lose his temper. On page 1 Amdur’s preface is “rather silly,” by page 4 she is a “Poor damn bleating little AMERICAN she sheep,” by the end Pound explodes with “IDIOT IDIOT” and “can you read?” Understanding its author to be a prisoner of the “Haaaavud” system, pound attacks the thesis as a by-product of the work of “Mathewson, “the bleating Untermud,” and the rest of the “beanery.” (Actually, only Matthiessen was at Harvard; R. P. Blackmur, though living in Boston, was a free-lance critic at the time, as was Louis Untermeyer. …) Pound reads Amdur’s thesis as he writes; his letter becomes an index, annotation by vitriolic annotation, to his disgust with university scholarship.

Does that whet your interest? The issue is still available for sale ($x.xx plus shipping; ordering info here).

Knowles, by the way, also prepared (with Scott A. Leonard) the T. S. Eliot bibliography published by the NPF as volume 2 of T. S. Eliot: Man and Poet (1992).