Poetics at Buffalo


The Poetics Program, in the Department of English at SUNY-Buffalo, was founded in 1991 by Charles Bernstein, Robert Bertholf, the late Robert Creeley, Raymond Federman, Susan Howe, and Dennis Tedlock. The core faculty for 2005-2006 consists of Myung Mi Kim, Steve McCaffery (David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters and Director of the Program), and Dennis Tedlock (James H. McNulty Chair of English). Each fall semester they are joined by Susan Howe (Samuel P. Capen Chair of Poetry and the Humanities). Dr. Bertholf is now Charles Abbott Scholar in Residence at the University Library's Rare Books and Poetry Collection.

The Poetics Program is one of several special programs and centers sponsored by the Graduate Program in English at UB. There are no individual degree requirements for these programs, which are open to all enrolled students. The existence of the Poetics Program is a testament to the active involvement of practicing literary artists in the teaching of poetics and critical theory in the Graduate Program. Our approach to "poetics" resonates with the orientation of many of our colleagues in literary and cultural studies at UB. The Program is dependent on the active participation, (by way of seminars, co-sponsorship of visiting scholars and writers, as well as through orals and dissertation committees), of a significant number of critics and scholars in the English Department and Comparative Literature Program, as well as in the faculty of related fields. Besides the "core" faculty a large pool of Associate Faculty are available to students in the Program, including Michael Basinski, Curator of the Poetry/Rare Books Collection; Joseph Conte, Tim Dean, Stacy Hubbard, Ming-Qian Ma, Christina Milletti, Neil Schmitz, Jim Swan and Scott Stevens (all in English); Henry Sussman and Krzysztof Ziarek (Comparative Literature); Justin Read (Romance Languages); Gerard Bucher and Jorge Guitart (Modern Languages and Literature); Tony Conrad (Media Studies); Loss Pequeño Glazier (Media Studies and Director of the Electronic Poetry Center); Jeff Stadelman (Music); and Barbara Tedlock (Anthropology).


The Poetics Program offers an interdisciplinary approach to literary, cultural, and textual studies. Our programs and resources include:

1. Graduate Seminars. The essence of the Poetics Program is the series of interrelated graduate seminars offered by the faculty in such areas as ethnopoetics, cross-cultural poetics, and the indigenous writing systems and oral traditions of the Americas; the European tradition from Mallarmé to the present; twentieth-century English-language poetry and poetics, with emphasis on the radical modernist approaches; interdisciplinary poetics including the relation of poetry to the other arts; the American traditions of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; twentieth-century innovative prose, fiction, and speculative fiction; philosophy, ideology, and literature; poststructuralist and other philosophical approaches to poetry and poetic issues, philosophy, linguistics, and ethics; poetics and/as cultural studies; language and performance (including visual and concrete poetries, sound and performance poetries); the poetics of prose; and a history of poetics from the pre-Socratics to the present (including the philosophy of language and related work in linguistics).

2. Visiting Writer/ Scholar Residencies. Readings by and seminar visits with both American and foreign poets, fiction writers, critics, theorists, and philosophers, featured as part of our ongoing "Poetics Plus" series. Visitors have included Kathy Acker, Charles Altieri, Bruce Andrews, David Antin, Arakawa & Madeline Gins, Rae Armantrout, Paul Auster, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Robin Blaser, Regis Bonvicino, David Bromige, Nicole Brossard, Gerald Bruns, Stanley Cavell, Abigail Child, Norma Cole, Al Cook, J. M Coetzee, Clark Coolidge, Fred D'Aguir, Michael Davidson, Michel Deguy, Samuel R. Delany, Edward Dorn, Arkadii Dragomoschenko, Rachel DuPlessis, Ulla Dydo, Richard Foreman, Dominique Fourcade, Kathleen Fraser, Jorie Graham, Barbara Guest, Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, Henry Hills, Emmanuel Hocquard, Fanny Howe, Erica Hunt, Joan Jonas, Michael Joyce, Joanne Kyger, Ann Lauterbach, Tan Lin, James Logenbach, Karen Mac Cormack, Jackson Mac Low, Michael McClure, Jerome McGann, Douglas Messerli, Eric Mottram, Harreyette Mullen, Cary Nelson, Michael Ondaatje, Simon Ortiz, Maureen Owen, Michael Palmer, Bob Perelman, Marjorie Perloff, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Tom Pickard, Christian Prigent, Tom Raworth, Joan Retallack, Adrienne Rich, Claude Royet-Journoud, Leslie Scalapino, Joanna Scott, Ron Silliman, Susan Stewart, Ron Sukenick, Cole Swensen, John Taggart, Fiona Templeton, Lorenzo Thomas, Cecelia Vicuña, Keith Waldrop, Rosmarie Waldrop, Barrett Watten, Marjorie Welish, John Yau, and Ray Young Bear.

3. Conferences and Festivals. The Poetics Program sponsors and supports both student-and faculty-initiated conferences, festivals, and stage productions. Such events have included "Writing from the New Coast," a milestone gathering of newly-publishing poets from across North America; "The New Gothic," readings and discussion with Kathy Acker, Peter Straub, Bradford Morrow, Paul West, and others; the "Samuel Beckett Conference"; "The Convergence of Science and the Humanities" on the new electronic writing; the "Festival of French Poetry"; "E-Poetry 2001," the first international digital poetry festival; and critical symposia on the work of poets Robert Duncan, Charles Sanders Peirce Conference, and Louis Zukofsky. In addition there has been a costumed reading of Robert Duncan's Adam's Way, and a full stage production (in cooperation with the Department of Theatre and Dance) of the play Rabinal Achi: The Mayan Dance of the Trumpets of Sacrifice, translated by Dennis Tedlock and directed by Leandro Soto. Commencing in 2007 there will be an annual Robert Creeley Memorial Conference devoted to innovative poetry and poetics.

4. Publications. The Poetics Program, in conjunction with other funding sources, supports a large number of imprints and presses, which are independently edited by Program participants. Their productions include poetry magazines, chapbook series, critical anthologies, broadsides, critical journals, and newsletters.

5. Teaching. Through its various offerings, the Poetics Program emphasizes teaching of the arts at the college level, with special emphasis on how to teach innovative works of literary arts in their cultural and historical contexts to undergraduates.

6. Individual Consultation. Faculty members are available for individual consultation on course selection, oral examinations, dissertation topics, and all aspects of writing and poetics.

7. Poetry/Rare Books Collection. The Collection houses one of North America's most extensive holdings of twentieth and twenty-first century poetry books and manuscripts and continues to acquire archives from innovative contemporary poets. Several of the readings and talks hosted by Poetics Plus are presented there, and each year, a few graduate students have the opportunity to work in the Collection. In addition, a visiting David Gray Chair Library Fellow in Residence is supported annually through the UB Humanities Institute, and Poetics Plus hosts an annual visit by a leading scholar in textual studies.

8. Electronic Poetry Center. The Poetics Program has a strong presence on the Internet through the Electronic Poetry Center (EPC): http://epc.buffalo.edu, directed by Loss Pequeño Glazier. The EPC has the most extensive collection of digital resources in innovative poetry and new media literature available on the Web. Graduate seminars focusing on digital media and computer media poetics, student-initiated web-based research, arts, and publication projects are supported technically and materially by the Program.

9. North American Center for Interdisciplinary Poetics (NACIP) www.nacip.net
NACIP provides a web-based forum for free exchange on matters pertaining to interdisciplinary creativity and conjecture. Polymorphous, democratic, but not sprawling, NACIP develops as its active constituency grows. It boasts of a prestigious group of Advisors for its five initial categories: Cognitive poetics (George Lakoff), Architectural poetics (Neil Spiller and Markos Novak), Ethnopoetics (Dennis Tedlock and Jerome Rothenberg), Cyberpoetics (Brian Kim Stefans), Parapoetics (Steve McCaffery) and General Poetics (Karen Mac Cormack and Marjorie Perloff). New categories will be added as the relevant material accrues. The Center currently receives articles in both English and French. New articles (both contemporary and historical) are regularly posted under each topic and several of the articles feature prominently in the Program's curriculum.

10. The Program in Digital Poetics. The Poetics Program has close affiliations to the Program in Digital Poetics. Located in the Department of Media Study and centered around the Electronic Poetry Center, its focus of concern is the multiple ways that languages-including programming languages - exist, circulate and are consumed in a virtual environment. Because of its attention to issues of computer-aided collaboration and distribution, Digital Poetics is closely allied to faculty working in web-based art, network culture, open systems, creative media forms for cooperative discourse and locative media.

11. Undergraduate Program. UB undergraduates actively participate in the Poetics Program through seminars in both contemporary and historical poetics, related courses offered by the associate pool, and attend open talks, lectures and readings. A lively group of undergraduates organizes readings and discussion groups and edit their own independently produced literary magazine. Additionally, in cooperation with Poetry/Rare Books, undergraduates have access to one of the most significant archives of twentieth and twenty-first century manuscripts, first editions, and literary magazines.


The Program is committed to historical, contemporary, interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approaches to poetics. It takes poetics in its broadest sense as the theoretical discourses that define, modify and inform the term poiesis as construction and making. It recognizes the foundational relation of poetry to both the materiality of the text and the physiology of its human enactment. Hence, attention is paid to the relation of the human body and the organic revolution to language in speech and perception.

Poetry and poetics never happen in vacuo but within the contingencies of history and along incommensurate vectors of potential. Hence, while preeminently focusing on the cutting edge poetics and poetic practice of today, the Program understands the chiasmic omnipresence of a past that is new, a past to be discovered anew, a past that can be contemporized as much as the present can be historicized. (There are intimations, for example, of digital poetics in the Bi-literal cipher of Sir Francis Bacon.) It is mindful too of the potential of the organic revolution in science and the emergent domains of ecopoetics to open up new ways of situating language and poetry in the life world.

Too often History is understood as "Western" history to the exclusion of a multiplicity of constructed and marked heterologies. Ethnopoetics reaches outside the Western tradition and relocates the West within a field of multiple cultures, languages, and poetic practices that have histories of their own. Inhabiting this field are languages that challenge standard Indo-European translation methods, oral performances that expand the range of the human voice, and writing systems that suggest new ways of overcoming the limitations of the alphabet. We consider both poetic practices that have already been documented and the imaginary practices of a potential present.

Core Funding

Funding for the Poetics Program comes from the Samuel P. Capen Chair of Poetry and the Humanities (Susan Howe); the David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters, Department of English (Steve McCaffery); the Melodia E. Jones Chair in French, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures (Gerard Bucher); and the James H. McNulty Chair of English, Department of English (Dennis Tedlock), as well as from the Department of English and the College of Arts and Sciences.


Any graduate student in Arts and Sciences at UB can participate in Poetics seminars and special programs. Applicants applying for admission to the Ph.D. or M.A. program in English should contact the Director of Graduate Admissions, Department of English, 306 Clemens Hall, SUNY, Buffalo, NY 14260. You can contact the Poetics Program directly by writing to us at that same address or emailing us at mdunlap@buffalo.edu
For more information on the English Department, including application information, go to: http://wings.buffalo.edu/cas/english/graduates.html

For more information on the Poetics Program, go to http://epc.buffalo.edu/poetics.