Utopia after Utopia

a Yale University research initiative

Pointed Words

poster poets new


Pointed Words: Poetry and Politics in the Global Present

November 30 and December 1, 2018


Organizers: Marijeta Bozovic, Liana Battsaligova, Ingrid Nordgaard

Collaborators: Walt Hunter, John MacKay, Kevin Platt, Kevin Repp


This symposium is dedicated to the poetry of the political left. Contemporary poetry—considered on a global scale and within a comparative frame—has witnessed a proliferation of new forms and uses in the past decade. From Cairo to Moscow to Ferguson to Twitter, poetry has served as a theater in which poets forge politicized global subjectivities, conjure new and future collectivities, sing past the limits of representation, imagine the beauty of resistance, and make visible the shifting systems of exclusionary politics.

Why does a form so established seem so vital and fresh, and relevant in unexpected ways and contexts across the globe? How does poetry’s marginalized position as a late-capitalist aesthetic production (differing dramatically from the market value of the novel or production costs of fiction film) contribute to poets’ ability/responsibility to imagine an outside to socio-economic mainstreams? How are poems recited, discussed, and evaluated by those who are excluded from national belonging and social provision?

Under the crisis of over-accumulation that marks contemporary global capitalism, poets revisit the conventions, tropes, and schemes of their art form in dialectical relation to new conditions of capitalist exploitation. How can we read the poetry of the contemporary period in relation to the development of leftist thought and action? How does the poetry of protest today relate to that of previous decades (and centuries)? How does it interact with, influence, and feed on neighboring and more distant arts (theater, performance, documentary film, music, contemporary art, and internet cultures of various sorts)? But above all: how does poetry relate to revolution, protest, and political platforms today?

Our symposium will be organized around a series of readings and roundtable discussions, rather than formal paper presentations. We invite discussion on a range of topics, as we try to reimagine for our own time Adorno’s critical insight from the 1950s: that the task of critical thought arising from poetry is “to discover how the entirety of a society, as a unity containing contradictions, appears in a work; in which respects the work remains true to its society, and in which it transcends that society.”


Friday (11/30/18)

9:30-10:00 Coffee and pastries

10:00-11:45     Roundtable: Legacies of the Left [Loria 250]

12:00-1:00       Catered lunch

1:15-2:45         Screening of Afghan-Kuzminki [Chukhrov Q&A]

3:00-4:45         Roundtable: Translation and Languages of Empire [Loria 250]

5:00-7:00         Poetry reading: Arseniev, Golynko, Nelson [Loria 250]

7:00                 Dinner at Cask Republic


Saturday (12/1/18)

9:30-10:00       Coffee and pastries

10:00-11:45     Roundtable: Expanded Archive [Loria 250]

12:00-1:00       Catered lunch

1:15-3:00         Roundtable: Form, Institution, Economy [Loria 250]

3:15-4:15         Beinecke session: Poetry & Politics in Postwar Europe [Beinecke]

4:30-6:30         Poetry reading: Medvedev, Ostashevsky, Rymbu, Raza Kolb [Loria 250]

6:30                 Closing reception at Mory’s Temple Bar

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