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A Transnational Poetics

Poetry is often viewed as culturally homogeneous—“stubbornly national,” in T. S. Eliot’s phrase, or “the most provincial of the arts,” according to W. H. Auden. But in A Transnational Poetics, Jahan Ramazani uncovers the ocean-straddling energies of the poetic imagination—in modernism and the Harlem Renaissance; in post–World War II North America and the North Atlantic; and in ethnic American, postcolonial, and black British writing. Cross-cultural exchange and influence are, he argues, among the chief engines of poetic development in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Reexamining the work of a wide array of poets, from Eliot, Yeats, and Langston Hughes to Elizabeth Bishop, Lorna Goodison, and Agha Shahid Ali, Ramazani reveals the many ways in which modern and contemporary poetry in English overflows national borders and exceeds the scope of national literary paradigms. Through a variety of transnational templates—globalization, migration, travel, genre, influence, modernity, decolonization, and diaspora—he discovers poetic connection and dialogue across nations and even hemispheres.

240 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


"Offering an insightful study of transnational poetics, Ramazani links modernity, transnationalism, and postcolonialism through a network of writers as they find themselves in a multiculture of global technologies and the remnants of the British empire....Enjoyable as well as important."


"Ramazani’s mission to reconsider poetry’s transnational tendencies has been accomplished with perspicacity."—Journal of Philosophy

Beerendra Pandey | Journal of Philosophy

"A Transnational Poetics is welcoming, curious, throughtful, and eager to persuade. Ramazani is occasionally critical of scholars who insist on identifying the unique 'citizenship' of poems, but he seems optimistic that his colleagues will give up their national pradigms once they see what he sees. For many scholars, lyric interiority is inhospitable to global concerns. Ramazani pushes against this view by emphasizing transnational materials, histories, and techniques. . . . Thanks to Ramazani’s eloquent and persuasive book, we have a much richer sense of how transnationalism has shaped modern and contemporary poetry in English. If his book inspires us to read more poetry, as it surely will, it also urges us to change how we edit, anthologize, interpret, and teach it."

Rebecca L. Walkowitz | Modern Language Quarterly

“A challenging and original book. . . . [Ramazani’s] examples are so captivating and illustrative that both specialists and general readers will enjoy reading [A Transnational Poetics] and will immediately recognise the importance of the book’s contribution to both the field of twentieth and twenty-first century poetry and transatlantic studies.”

Journal of Transatlantic Studies

"Ramazani’s is a rich book, full of methodological insights and dazzlingly eclectic in the range of poets it presents, from all quarters of the Anglophone world."

American Literature

“A volume breathtaking in its global scope and critical incisiveness. The spectrum of issues and poets treated in this book is nothing short of stunning….Given his enormous cross-cultural, cross-temporal breadth, it is all the more impressive that Ramazani is also adept at analyzing stylistic devices in individual poems—language, structure, imagery, voice, rhythm, allusion, and the like. Yet he grounds this analysis too in the writers’ transnational contexts….Whether on the global or the textual plane, Jahan Ramazani’s combination of multicultural erudition, keen insight, and critical ingenuity renders this book a masterful resource that will be consulted for decades.”

ACLA, Harry Levin Prize Citation, 2011 winner

"A Transnational Poetics ought to be required reading for any scholar of modern and contemporary poetry in English."

Comparative Literature Studies

"The salient version of transnational cultural studies Ramazani advances will appeal to poetry critics as well as scholars working in a broad range of fields who are concerned with intercultural dynamics and the relationship between political and aesthetic structures."

Journal of Modern Literature

“In A Transnational Poetics, Jahan Ramazani continues to address an obvious but persistent imbalance in the American academy’s understanding of world Anglophone literature. A distinguished success.”

Michael North, University of California, Los Angeles

“With a wide scope and with vigor, Ramazani argues that these modern and contemporary poets are not only syncretic, inventive, and worth reading, they are also transnational: they don’t make sense unless we keep in mind their responses to conditions and traditions in more than one country. He is right, and his claim is important because it gives the academy good thematic reasons to pay attention to the formal inventions for which these poets should be known.”

Stephen Burt, Harvard University

Table of Contents



1          Poetry, Modernity, and Globalization
2          A Transnational Poetics

3          Traveling Poetry

4          Nationalism, Transnationalism, and the Poetry of Mourning

5          Modernist Bricolage, Postcolonial Hybridity

6          Caliban’s Modernities, Postcolonial Poetries

7          Poetry and Decolonization

8          Poetry and the Translocal: Blackening Britain



American Comparative Literature Association: Harry Levin Prize

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