Register: Poetic Measures: a variable measure for the fixed – 1-3 July, York

Registration is now open for Poetic Measures: a variable measure for the fixed to be held at the University of York from the 1st to the 3rd of July.

Register here now.

About the conference

How do we measure poetry? The words ‘measure’ and ‘meter’, with their shared etymological origin in the Greek metron, have a long history of being used synonymously. However, when William Carlos Williams wrote that ‘[t]he key to modern poetry is measure, which must reflect the flux of modern life’, he proposed ‘measure’ as an alternative to the metrical foot in response to ‘the flux of modern life’ that demanded measures of more fluid and unstable permutations.

The measures poetry takes in response to an idea of modernity has compelled looking beyond the generic edges of the poem to other art forms. In response to the ‘formless spawning fury’ of ‘this filthy modern tide’, W.B. Yeats’s ‘The Statues’ ends with the aspiration to ‘trace / the lineaments of a plummet-measured face’, rearticulating measurement in terms of sculptural outline, rather than duration of sound. Construing the poem as a coordinated interrelation of spatial measurements, as well as a temporally continuous pattern of sound, these ‘lineaments’ also evoke the silhouette of the poetic line as a visual limit in the structure of the poem. Giorgio Agamben, for one, used this tension between the line break and the sentence to define the lyric poem, a tension Jorie Graham described as ‘the pull from the end, the suction towards closure, and the voice trying (quite desperately in spots) to find forms of delay, digression, side-motions which are not entirely dependent for their effectiveness on that sense-of-the-ending, that stark desire’. These ‘side-motions’ of a poem’s lineation resist the linearity of the sentence, using ‘forms of delay’ not to heighten suspense, but to bypass conventional expectations of closure.

The conference costs £45 or £18 for students.

Keynote speakers

Prof Simon Jarvis (University of Cambridge): ‘*Sordello*-matrix: Robert Browning and the poetics of close counting’
Dr Matt Bevis (University of Oxford): ‘Poetry by Numbers’
Dr Natalie Pollard (University of Exeter: ‘Fugitive Pieces: the poetics of variability’
For further information about the conference, including details of the conference dinner at Betty’s and accommodation, see the Poetic Measures website.