Remote intimacies: Multilingualism in contemporary poetry
Remote Intimacies narrates a transnational history of the Americas as it appears in contemporary poetry. I trace a constellation of works from North and South America and the Caribbean, attending to their depictions of colonization, slavery, immigration, and ethnonational conflict. In contemporary poetry, I argue, multilingualism is fundamentally historiographic; moreover, other languages signal the most affectively dense moments in these texts. In this way, contemporary multilingual poetry stands at odds with its modernist precedents: it counters the entrenched aesthetic of impersonality and the image of a future-oriented avant-garde that have come to define the critical literature in poetics. Reading recent works by Cecilia Vicuña, James Thomas Stevens, M. NourbeSe Philip, Anne Tardos, Myung Mi Kim, Erín Moure and Rachel Zolf, I offer an alternative methodology: I foreground the historiographic and affective work that that has long been central to the genre, but that has been occluded by the critical focus on the materiality of language and on Marxian narratives of progressive history. Rather than breaking with the past and present, or leaping into a utopian future, these texts use other languages to represent the lives and worlds extinguished by the forward march of progress. They refuse to retroactively confer personhood on history’s victims, and instead turn to other languages to depict their objects of mourning. The resulting practice is a sonically rich poetry that focuses on transtemporal connections among speakers; repeating the words and gestures of other times and places, these poetries sound the impossibly distant without assimilating it into the here and now.
Latin American literature;
0312: Latin American literature
0360: Caribbean literature
0492: GLBT Studies
0591: American literature
0631: Ethnic studies