Skip to Content

Poetic Language Now

«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Rebecca Kosick

Co-Organizer: Nathan Taylor

Contact the Seminar Organizers

Poetry has exploded off the page in recent decades, making a prominent home for itself in new semiotic and material environments. Poems circulate on subway systems, through platforms and apps, on placards at protests, in art museums, and the built environment. These poems, in turn, are composed in a variety of human and nonhuman languages, from Spanglish to mathematics, code to GPT-language models. 

Existing theoretical accounts of poetic language tend to prioritize (even while questioning) a binary of poetic v. ordinary. Theorists argue that poetic language disrupts the prevailing symbolic order characteristic of ordinary uses of language.1 At the same time, they acknowledge that ordinary language is often poetic, with devices like metaphor in use not just in poems but ​​”actualized in all domains of life.”2 Inversely, theorists, critics, and poets recognize that poetry uses language that is also, even stridently, ordinary. 

Contemporary poetry—which circulates within an expanded range of material infrastructures, incorporates translingual and multimodal semiotics, and draws on emergent technological tools of inscription—introduces new complications into the binary of ordinary/poetic. For example, is poetry written in code ordinary because it partakes of a ubiquitous mode of digital communication; or does it reorient the very terms of this debate? Is multilingual3 poetry ‘peculiar’4 because it departs from monolingualism; is it ‘ordinary’ because it represents a norm among a minoritised community of speakers; or might it exist in excess of such binaries? Is poetry that incorporates tree leaves5 just challenging the symbolic order, or is it (among other things) demanding a material and ecological account of what poetic language can be and do? 

This seminar aims to posit new theoretical paradigms for encapsulating the multiplicity of poetic languages in use on the ground since 1970. We welcome papers that address expanded notions of poetic language from any geographical and (trans)linguistic context, on topics including (but not limited to):

poetic language and multimodality
poetic language in translation (interlingual, intralingual, intersemiotic, etc.)
poetic language and technology
poetic language in use outside of poetry
poetic language and mathematics
poetic language and translingualism
poetic language as non-verbal aesthetic production
poetic language and asemic writing
poetic language as visual semiotics

1. For related discussions, see Mukařovský 1983, Kristeva 1984. 2. Friedrich 1986. 3. See, for example, Uljana Wolf’s Falsche Freunde. 4. Attridge 2004. 5. See, for example, Cecilia Vicuña’s Sabor a mi

«Back To Seminars