Against the contemporary reality of Brexit and an openly racist and sexist US president, alongside draconian detention and deportation policies, anti-black and anti-Muslim violence in the UK and US, and the ongoing neglect of indigenous people’s dispossession, it is time to stop doing poetry and poetry
studies as usual.
The work of Black British poets and thinkers has been crucial for more than half a century in linking the issues of race, ethics, and aesthetics. Recent events, projects, and publications centring writers of colour in the UK include Vahni Capildeo winning the Forward Prize, ‘decolonise the curriculum’ campaigns at various universities, Octavia Poetry Collective, the Ledbury scheme for emerging BAME critics, Out of Bounds anthology and the subsequent Beyond Bounds tour, The Good Immigrant anthology, Media Diversified news outlet, Gal-Dem magazine, Freed Verse: Diversity in British Poetry report, and Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry’s issue on race. And yet, it is not unusual for poetry publications, scholarship, and academic conferences to remain quiet on the issue of race, especially racism. For example, while the relationship between ‘experimental’ or ‘difficult’ poetry and capitalism has been the subject of much compelling critical writing in the UK, little attention has been given to poetry’s relationship to race, racism, and the legacies of colonialism. White settler colonialism is a race-based system of capitalist exploitation and expropriation, and poetry is not simply an accessory to the system, it is an indispensable arm.
This conference is a follow up to the first ‘Race & Poetry & Poetics in the UK’ symposium that took place in London in February 2016. We call for the radical re-thinking of the ways in which poetry and poetics are conceived, analysed, and discussed in the UK, of the ways in which poetry and poetics are undergirded by legacies of colonialism in terms of racialized belief systems, practices, and sciences. We do not propose ameliorative and tokenizing ‘diversity’ practices, but a wholesale overturning and rethinking of ‘English-language’ ‘Anglo-American’ poetry and poetics from the foundations up, taking account of racial ideologies, which cannot be thought separately from class and gender. We aim to expose the liberal myths of multiculturalism, ‘colour-blindness’, and ‘post-racial society’, and to explore how the discourse of ‘diversity’ impedes frank discussions of racism in literary and academic contexts. This conference is about radical politics as much as it is about radical poetics.
Please visit our website www.rapapuk.com for the full call for papers and for more information about the conference and the organising committee, which includes: Janani Ambikapathy, Mary Jean Chan, Amy De’Ath, James Goodwin, Edmund Hardy, Nat Raha, Nisha Ramayya, Sophie Seita, Sam Solomon, Siddharth Soni, Laurel Uziell, Dorothy Wang.