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Poetics in a New Key

Interviews and Essays

Marjorie Perloff writes in her preface to Poetics in a New Key that when she learned David Jonathan Y. Bayot wanted to publish a collection of her interviews and essays, she was “at once honored and mystified.”  But to Perloff’s surprise and her readers’ delight, the resulting assembly not only presents an accessible and provocative introduction to Perloff’s critical thought, but also highlights the wide range of her interests, and the energetic reassessments and new takes that have marked her academic career. 

The fourteen interviews in Poetics in a New Key—conducted by scholars, poets, and critics from the United States, Denmark, Norway, France, and Poland, including Charles Bernstein, Hélène Aji, and Peter Nicholls—cover a broad spectrum of topics in the study of poetry: its nature as a literary genre, its current state, and its relationship to art, politics, language, theory, and technology. Also featured in the collection are three pieces by Perloff herself: an academic memoir, an exploration of poetry pedagogy, and an essay on twenty-first-century intellectuals. But across all the interviews and essays, Perloff’s distinctive personality and approach to reading and talking resound, making this new collection an inspiring resource for scholars both of poetry and writing.

256 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2014

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature


“This book is a dynamic introduction to the avant-garde of the past 150 years, as well as to Perloff’s work. Bayot’s judicious selections include discussions of manifestos, conceptualism, language and translation, Robert Lowell, poetry and pedagogy, futurism, conflicting traditions, and the practice of criticism. Perloff quotes writers she admires with ease (particularly Ezra Pound, Frank O’Hara, and David Antin). Favourite axioms (‘do not re-tell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose’) recur, giving the reader a clear understanding of the thought that has influenced her. The collection reveals Perloff at her best, as she ‘debates the role of various poetic movements and poets, as well as the larger relationship of poetry to culture.’ She is a gifted conversationalist with a remarkable awareness of her lifetime’s work, and a gratifying willingness continually to reassess her own ideas.”

Rona Cran | Times Literary Supplement

“A compelling work, enthralling to read and filled with profound insight, provocations, and an awe-inspiring range of engagements and knowledge. Poetics in a New Key is the perfect companion to Perloff’s many books, but, more than that, it is an ideal introduction to her thought.”

Charles Bernstein, University of Pennsylvania | author of "Recalculating"

“Lively, engaging, and energetic. Perloff is the English-speaking world’s preeminent advocate for the poetic avant-garde, and in this book, she vigorously argues for the new and the innovative, and blasts the boring and conventional. Because of her exceptional candor and clarity, because of the depth of her convictions and knowledge, this book has unusual force. She cogently advances her positions, mixing firebrand assertion with robust humor. As an interviewee, she is charmingly aggressive, unflinchingly polemical, and disarmingly frank. Her confidence in her opinions is unwavering. These riveting pages are full of axioms, provocations, and manifesto-like pronouncements. Funny, robust, cantankerous, pointed, and amazingly vivid interviews and essays.”

Jahan Ramazani, University of Virginia | author of "Poetry and Its Others: News, Prayer, Song, and the Dialogue of Genres"

“Perloff is a superlative speaker and conversationalist; her off-the-cuff comments are powerfully insightful and energizing, and she is superb in a roundtable setting, where she can respond dynamically to others’ ideas and arguments. Poetics in a New Key will finally give a wider audience access to Perloff as a thinker and critic who excels in these more casual and spontaneous settings. Its interviews make for absorbing, even compulsive reading.”

Brian M. Reed, University of Washington | author of "Nobody’s Business: Twenty-First Century Avant-Garde Poetics"

Table of Contents

                Marjorie Perloff
Part I: The Critic
1              Becoming a Critic: An Academic Memoir
2              A Critic of the Other Tradition
                Interview with Hélène Aji and Antoine Cazé
3              Marjorie Perloff On & Off the Page of Poetry
                Interview with Kristine Samson and Nikolaj Rønhede
Part II: A Poetics
4              The Alter(ed) Ground of Poetry and Pedagogy
                Conversation with Charles Bernstein
5              Mapping the New
                Interview with Rain Taxi Review of Books
6              Modernism / Postmodernism? Will the Real Avant-garde Please Stand Up!
                Interview with Jeffrey Side
7              (Un)Framing the other Tradition: On Ashbery and Others
                Interview with Grzegorz Jankowicz
8              Robert Lowell, Now and Then
                Conversation with David Wojahn
9              Futurism and Schism: Close Listening with Marjorie Perloff
                Interview with Charles Bernstein
10           The Challenge of Language
                Interview with Enrique Mallen
11           Conceptual Writing: A Modernist Issue
                Interview with Peter Nicholls
12           Still Making It New: Marjorie Perloff in Manifesto Mode
                Interview with Ellef Prestsæter
Part III: To Praxis
13           What is Poetry?
                Interview with Fulcrum
14           On Evaluation in Poetry
                Dialogue with Robert von Hallberg
15           Teaching Poetry in Translation: The Case for Bilingualism
16           The Internet Moment in the Life of Publishing
                Interview with Front Porch Magazine
17           The Intellectual in the 21st Century
                David Jonathan Y. Bayot
Index of Names

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