One week from today I head to Banff where, among an outstanding collection of literary scholars, I’ll be giving a paper on contemporary Canadian concrete poetry & affect at the Maladies of the Soul conference. The program can be found here.
Abstract: This paper investigates the influence of what bpNichol refers to as the “Language Revolution” on contemporary Canadian poets. Extrapolating the materialist theories of Marshall McLuhan, this paper describes the Language Revolution as a theory of affective materialist poetics. Affective materialist poetics accounts for the conscious poetic experiment with the materials of language to transmit an emotion or intensity from one body (textual, corporeal, or otherwise) to another. As indicated by its invocation of radicalism, the Language Revolution crucially extends to thinking about how language, poetry, and its constituent elements act upon the poet and audience and intervenes into material and socio-political processes. Though the movement is largely categorized as a failure by Steve McCaffery––who, like Nichol, once believed in the same project––the Language Revolution continues to inspire poets today. Recognizing this network of influence, this paper focuses upon and develops connections between the poetry of the Language Revolution and the Calgary-based poet derek beaulieu. beaulieu explores materialist poetics through visual and concrete poems and has theorized his work within an affective discourse. By looking at the works in his collections, ranging from fractal economies (2006) to more recent books like Kern (2013), I intend to examine the evolving politics of his practice. These texts illustrate beaulieu’s shift from the disruptive and explosive poetics found in his earlier works to current and subtler poetic projects wherein beaulieu is no longer imagining ways by which we can explode the present, but rather ways to cut into it and reconfigure it.