February 12, 2011

Some sub-cutaneous layer of muscle

remembers to tighten my pores,  

making me ready, just as though the skin

still held the feathers I erect for flight

 from in here where the fear is,

my body leans forward against the air,

 not putting weight on the ground

awaiting the moment when a gust

returns me to my proper element.


Traces of multiple pasts,

insist on their solutions irrespective

of effectiveness. I imagine

I’d like the sky to enter

my skull, fall through my spine

secure me to land, but my substance

twists on the spindle of old opinions,

 there’s no avoiding the avoidance

the ultimate end and aim of all activity.



Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants

Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s


  • Publisher: Ohio State Univiversity Press, 2011
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0814292453
  • ISBN-13: 978-081429245
  • In the 1930s African Americans faced three distinct historical crises that impacted the lives of African Americans directly—the Great Depression, the existential-identity crisis, and the Italo-Ethiopian War, with its threat of a race war. A sizeable body of black poetry was produced in this decade, which captured the new modes of autonomy through which black Americans resisted these social calamities. Much of it, however, including the most influential protest poems, was dismissed as “romantic” by major, leftist critics and anthologists.

    Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants: Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s, by Jon Woodson, uses social philology to unveil social discourse, self fashioning, and debates in poems gathered from anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and individual collections. The first chapter examines three long poems, finding overarching jeremiadic discourse that inaugurated a militant, politically aware agent. Chapter two examines self-fashioning in the numerous sonnets that responded to the new media of radio, newsreels, movies, and photo-magazines. The third chapter shows how new subjectivities were generated by poetry addressed to the threat of race war in which the white race was exterminated.

    The black intellectuals who dominated the interpretative discourses of the 1930s fostered exteriority, while black culture as a whole plunged into interiority. Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants delineates the struggle between these inner and outer worlds, a study made difficult by a contemporary intellectual culture which recoils from a belief in a consistent, integrated self.

    JON WOODSON is the Graduate Professor of English at Howard University, received his Ph.D. from Brown University. Woodson is a scholar and teacher of Modern American literature with interests in poetics, the novel, and the long poem. In 2006, Woodson was a visiting Fulbright lecturer in American Literature at the University of Pecs and at ELTE in Budapest. His articles have appeared in Obsidian II, African American Review, The Furious Flowering Of African American Poetry, The Dictionary of Literary Biography, Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, The Harlem Renaissance: a Gale Critical Companion, and The Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing. His critical studies are To Make a New Race: Gurdjieff, Toomer, and The Harlem Renaissance (1999) and A Study of Catch-22: Going Around Twice (2000). Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants: Recovering the African-American Poetry of the 1930s, Ohio State University Press 2011.

    Recent work is directed toward a study of the Egyptian materials in Z. N. Hurston’s fiction. Jon Woodson’s chapbook, Cage with a Live Mouth, has just been translated into Hungarian and is forthcoming in a bilingual edition. His poems have been published in Poet Lore, Northeast Journal, Arjuna Library, Baltimore City Paper, and Manzanita Quarterly. He has also published two chapbooks, I Slept Like Liquid Paper and Worry Dolls.



    January 10, 2011





    The bitten moon was high up

    in a dark sky, its great halo

    flowering, opening

    in ragged petals of light as

    patchy cloud poured over it.

    INACTION: seven poems

    February 10, 2010


    Magicians say
    the great chain must be
    joined, or revealed
    in its true form
    or heard as a whole
    monochord vibrating,
    there being,
    they insist,
    no need to climb
    or descend only to breath
    in and breath out
    which we do already

    though unconsciously
    without knowing
    the secret of the
    sequence, the significance
    of remembering and forgetting
    which enshrine the code,
    so that when we remember
    we need to hear the pull
    of forgetfulness and in
    forgetting remember.

    They say this is all
    we need to find,
    the necessity of remembering
    to forget and forgetting
    to remember,
    and to be fair
    sometimes we do
    remember to remember
    but then forget to forget.



    When something issues forth
    from the void, from no visible
    or understandable source

    we know it is sacred
    and immortal, because
    having no beginning

    it can have no end,
    we can easily agree
    to this, listening when

    we speak or read,
    hearing only so far back
    before words vaporize.

    We hear them issue forth
    not seeing or knowing
    an end for any let loose

    to dance away from us.


    I watch your words,
    the words I read,
    skittering through the
    maze of my body,
    running in erratic spurts,
    reaching dead ends,
    turning back then
    moving on without
    finding receptive tissue,
    a place to rest.

    Minute convulsions,
    shake them, they bounce
    less jauntily in the
    brain than the intestines
    their structure roughly parsed
    their words re-spelled
    their punctuation analysed,
    time sucks at them
    eventually creates
    pellets of memory,
    leaves them to atrophy
    in contingency store



    Perhaps every doing is an undoing,
    not in the sense of fate, of ruin,
    but in some invisible world
    of the undone where whatever we do
    undoes a myriad connections.

    Just as whatever we say unsays
    more than we could list or
    suggest intentionally, our
    tongues are lawyers that probe,
    and burn stubble from fields
    from which all sensible mice
    have already run.



    The idea or remembrance of something
    outside, beyond, not cosmically
    significant, not requiring years of
    yoga, or fasting, the ontological
    recall of something else
    of elseness, of elsnessness,
    the emptiness into which
    such remembrance can come,
    undefined, without specific aim,
    the idea or remembrance,
    the listening, I forget now
    what it was I wanted
    or wanted to forget.



    Now I am nearly
    to something.

    I feel the hover
    of it in the air
    I nearly know
    how to be here

    in relation
    to extinction.



    Is it best to say that
    in the ether, in the air itself
    are molecules of mercy,

    other ways of knowing,

    that the divine rushes
    like wind across
    the grass

    find the kindest
    delusion and live there
    above the flood plane?


    Poetry & Story at the X Roads

    February 16, 2011



    Poetry & Story at the X Roads  
    a night of readings featuring
    the launch of two WP titles:
    The Odysseus Poems
    Fictions on the Odyessy of Homer
    Judith Kazantzis

      Judith Kazantzis’ sequence of interwoven voices casts the many struggles with monsters, the seductions and loneliness of love, and the long wanderings of heroes into a vivid meditation for our turbulent times… Marina Warner

    The Unicycle Set
    Nick Burbridge

    Just one click on Nick Burbridge’s website reveals a man driven: if you thought his compositions as leader of ranting roots rockers McDermott’s Two Hours were edgy, prepare yourself for a ride, his poetry is radical and subversive. -Simon Jones, fRoots
    and special guest  
    Editor-in-Chief of AMBIT Magazine

    Martin Bax
    reading from his latest short story collection
    Memoirs of a Gone World 
    (Salt, 2010) 
    These stories are formally adventurous, modern and post-modern, sometimes very droll, and often distinctly filthy. Isn’t that enough for anyone?   –  Geoff Nicholson
    from Nick Burbridge
    and fiddler friend
    musicians, poets & flash fictioneers welcome!  

    (5 spots – come early to book – one song, poem or page max)
    7:30 for 8pm start
    £5 / £4 concs.
    Friday March 4th

    Iambic Arts Theatre
    Regent St, Brighton

    further info: contact: Naomi Foyle at

     with the word Events in the subject line 

    This reading is a special chance for Brightonians to meet the Ambit team, and for Ambit 
    and Waterloo Press to celebrate their ‘special relationship’…
    In 1959 a London paediatrician, Dr Martin Bax, diagnosed Angst and Ennui as the prevailing mood. He prescribed Ambit magazine: poetry, fiction and art- sometimes shocking, sometimes experimental sometimes comic, always compelling –  plus a small 
    dose of unstuffy poetry reviews.  Created in London, published in the UK, and read internationally, Ambit attracts a loyal core of readers and contributors, including  
    Judith Kazantzis, Nick Burbridge and other WP poets. 


    Waterloo Press is an exciting niche publisher with a proven track record in producing high-quality volumes of poetry. Individual collections too have been praised in Poetry Review, and and others for sheer beauty of production – as well as the contents! Some say there’s been nothing like us since Trigram Press in the 1970s. That’s heady, but we’re delighted. Waterloo Press is a publishing house originally dependant on its founder and main benefactor, Sonja Ctvrtecka, and a variety of funding sources. Including major arts council Grants.



    CALL FOR PAPERS JOYCEAN LITERATURE:FICTION AND POETRY 1910-2010 June 13-14, 2011 School of Advanced Studies,

    Institute of English Studies, University of London,
    Senate House

    Plenary Speakers: 
    Professor Derek Attridge (York) 

    and Coffin Memorial Lecturer,

    Professor Michael Wood (Princeton)

    James Joyce’s influence on literature has been enormous. This conference will examine Joyce’s complex international impact on fiction, long or short, and on poetry. The field remains under-explored. Valuable studies have appeared: either following the links between Joyce and individual authors (Beckett most obviously) or asking about Joyce’s example for the twentieth-century avant-garde. In Irish Studies, too, a strong sense has obtained of Joyce as challenge and example. But much productive work remains to be done to bring these strands together, to broaden the range of influences considered, and to ask critical questions about the nature of influence and legacy. We want to consider Joyce as model, shadow, inspiration, irritation or obstacle for a roster of writers like the following: Amis-Auden-Ballard-Banville-Beckett-Borges-Bowen-Brooke-Rose-Burgess-Burroughs -Carter-Carver-Coe-Coetzee-DeLillo-PKDick-TSEliot-Foster-Wallace-Heaney-Huxley-BSJohnson-Kundera-Lawrence-Lowry-MacDiarmid-McGahern-EO’Brien-FO’Brien-Orwell-Nabokov-Pamuk-Perec-Pinter-Prynne-Pynchon-Raine-Rushdie-SinclairSpender-Stoppard-Thorpe-Toibin-Updike-Walcott-AntoniaWhite-PatrickWhite-Winterson-Woolf-Zweig
    This two-day conference will address these and other questions through particular studiesor broader enquiries. The conference will feature some forty papers alongside prestigious plenary speakers, chosen from the most dynamic critics and writers at work today.Please send proposals of up to 300 words, for 20-minute papers, to both

    Joe Brooker (


    Finn Fordham (

    by James Joyce’s 129th birthday, 2 February 2011

    General Enquiries: Jon Millington, Events Officer, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU; tel +44 (0) 207 664 4859; Email

    Further info:

    The School of Advanced Study is part of the central University of London.

    The School takes its responsibility to visitors with special needs very seriously and will endeavour to make reasonable adjustments to its facilities in order to accommodate the needs of such visitors. If you have a particular requirement, please feel free to discuss it confidentially with the organiser in advance of the event taking place.



    Figuring the Past: the Literary and Historical Imagination

    3-5 March 2010

    The difference between historian and poet is, according to Aristotle, that the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. He sees a clear and evident distinction between a historian, who describes events and a writer, who invents them. This distinction has been the subject of debate over the last few decades with some calling it into question and others looking more closely at the relationship between the two. The debate has moreover taken place in the midst of rapid and radical changes brought on by the forces of globalisation eroding the national frameworks within which literature and history have for so long been viewed. In the field of history this has driven efforts to evolve transnational or global perspectives and to questions about the colonial and imperialist dimensions of much of modern history. In literary studies this has fuelled the revisiting of canonical texts to see how they are embedded in and reflect these dimensions and their impact on the emergence of genres, literary movements, narrative practices. A further aspect of these new ways of seeing is the increasingly interdisciplinary practice of cultural history, the turn to questions of cultural memory, and the focus on popular culture and popular fiction to provide insights into the mentalities and anxieties of past ages.

    The contemporary boom of the historical novel, a literary genre that embodies the complex interdependence of history and literature, underscores the relevance of the debate. Initially emerging as a vehicle for popularizing national histories, the historical novel appears today to reflect a very different sense of the world. Its protagonists seem to be increasingly drawn from the margins of society, from the subaltern classes. In place of (his)story, we often have (her)story. And it seems to be less concerned with constructing a singular identity than with questioning this idea. Are these observations generally valid? And why this resort to history in times that exhort us daily to forget the past and focus on the future?

    Even as we reflect on the ways in which history and literature figure the past, our concerns are with the present, and with its no less compelling conflicts and crises. We invite papers that explore the interactions of history and literature in the light of these concerns. Papers focusing on other artistic forms, on film or on related debates in other disciplines are also welcome.

    [Deadline for submission of abstracts (200-300 words):
    15 January 2011]

    Contact name: Shaswati Mazumdar

    Pulling the curtain aside, looking

    for the revelation of the day not

    yet come but seeing its promise,

    opening the window and looking

    out eastwards seeing the banks

    of grey, writing my gospel here,

    pulling the days aside looking

    for validation, transformation of

    the ordinary days lived carelessly,

    shuffling them into a new order

    as though, in themselves, they

    were not light enough nor full

    nor good enough, seeing out there

    a dull mottle covering the higher

    cloud as if it were smoke drifted

    here from the vast fire of the sun.





    An academic conference

    Chetham’s Library, Manchester,

     28th-29th January, 2011

    For more details contact James Smith and Joel Swann at:


    Call for papers

    During the restoration and eighteenth century, the civil war period was consistently represented as a traumatic break in the history of England and the British Isles, separating the institutionally and culturally modern Augustans from either the primitiveness or idealised simplicity of the earlier epoch. Today, much academic practice silently repeats the period’s self-representation as a century divided between pre and post civil war cultures, whether in research, job descriptions or in undergraduate survey courses. Among the effects of this division of labour is a tendency for the earlier ‘Renaissance’ decades to be privileged over the restoration, which is frequently treated as a poor relation to the eighteenth century.

    This conference provides a forum for researchers in all disciplines whose work spans all or any part of the long seventeenth century. As our titular quotations from Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion and Swift’s sermon ‘On the Martyrdom of King Charles I’ suggest, we also encourage papers on subsequent imaginings of the period that have contributed to or contested the ways in which it is read today. Concerns include but are not limited to:

    • The comparative study of seventeenth-century writing, sciences, visual arts and music before, during and after the civil war period; their material and intellectual dissemination; their relationship to ideas of what constitutes the early modern and the restoration.
    • Constructions of the seventeenth century from the restoration to the present; representations in literature, art, history and film; the cultural influence of the seventeenth century on subsequent periods.
    • The role critical theory can play in our reading of the period and/or narratives of the long seventeenth century from within literary criticism and critical theory; e.g. Leavis and Eliot on the Metaphysical poets, Walter Benjamin on the baroque, Foucault on madness, Habermas on the public sphere.
    • The study of non-canonical and marginalized texts and materials, and nationally comparative readings of the period.
    • The representation and reception of pre-seventeenth-century culture during the seventeenth century; the place of the past in the period’s self-representations.

    Confirmed speakers include:
    Rosanna Cox (Kent), Jeremy Gregory (Manchester), Helen Pierce (York), George Southcombe (Oxford), Jeremy Tambling (Manchester), Edward Vallance (Roehampton)

    Please send abstracts of 300-500 words to James Smith (Manchester) and Joel Swann (Keele) by 15th October 2010, at Proposals from students are particularly welcomed, for whom attendance will be subsidized thanks to the generous support of the Society for Renaissance Studies.



    Dates:   14 to 16 October 2011
    Venue: University of Toronto, Canada


    Contact name: Emily Kasak

    The conference explores the current role and future possibilities of the book, welcoming academics and practitioners from many areas, including publishing, librarianship, printing, education, literacy studies, and information technology.

    Organized by: Common Ground Publishing

    Check the website for full details


    Decadent Poetics
    Centre for Victorian Studies,  University of Exeter, UK  –  1-2 July 2011
    Deadline for proposals: 10 November 2010

    Keynote speakers: Stephen Arata (Virginia), Joseph Bristow (UCLA),  Regenia Gagnier (Exeter), Catherine Maxwell (Queen Mary, London)
    The initial reception of ‘decadent’ writing in both France and England was characterized by a focus on form and the importance of the poets of the late Roman Empire. From Theophile Gautier’s Preface to the 1868 edition of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal to Arthur Symons’s ‘The Decadent Movement in Literature’ and Paul Borget’s famous delineation of decadent writing attempts to articulate a ‘decadent poetics’ were central to the definition of this new literature. Yet in recent years our understanding of decadence has been occluded by the focus on cultural politics and sexual transgression, which continue to dominate academic criticism of the fin de siècle. This conference seeks to return to the Victorian interest in language, poetics and form as the key to understanding decadence and aestheticism as literary phenomena. The focus here will be on both poetry and prose of the period and we particularly encourage those interested in marginal and forgotten writers of the period, along with the debates on the relationship between poetics and a culture in decline. In an attempt to outline a decadent poetics, we also seek to expand and complicate the canon of ‘’ecadent’ writers who dominate prevailing versions of the Victorian fin de siècle.

    Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

    – education and language;
    – Victorians and Roman literature;
    – Decadent prosody;
    – Decadent and Modernist poetics;
    – Aestheticist poetics;
    – transatlantic Decadence;
    – fin-de-siècle philology/linguistics;
    – politics of Decadence and Aestheticism;
    – satires of Decadent form;
    – print/visual cultures of Decadence;
    – Decadence and new technologies;
    – genetic readings of Decadence;
    – archival Decadence;
    – material Decadence

    Abstracts of 300-500 words should be sent to Dr Alex Murray and Dr Jason Hall via email at <> by 10 November 2010.

    Proposals for panels (comprising three speakers) are also welcome — please submit the title and a brief description of the panel as well as abstracts for the individual papers. Speakers (whether part of a proposed panel or not) are asked to include a one-page CV with full contact details, institutional affiliation (where applicable) and a list of relevant publications.

    Please bear in mind that final papers should take between 15 and 20 minutes (maximum) to deliver.