JUNE 4-6, 2015

Organizing Committee :

Modesta SUÁREZ (U. Toulouse), Delphine RUMEAU (U. Toulouse), Clément OUDART (U. Paris-Sorbonne), Gaëlle HOURDIN (U. Toulouse), Nathalie GALLAND (U. Bourgogne)

With the support of :



(études hispanophones)


(littérature comparée)


(études anglophones)

VALE (Paris-Sorbonne)

(études anglophones)



Seeking to account for this particularly thriving creative form on the American continent, a critical tradition focusing on the long poem (poème long, poema extenso, poema largo…) has gradually taken shape in the American world. Yet this tradition remains mostly confined within language boundaries and barely strives to relate the various American cultural areas. As a result, a very rich bibliography already exists on the long poem (and even on the ‘very long poem’) in the US and English-speaking Canada, but it seems much scantier elsewhere, Latin America having mostly tackled this issue in generic (mostly epic) terms, while critical works on this question have only recently appeared in Québec. Nonetheless, American poets, whether writing in American English, Spanish, French or Portuguese, engage with and respond to one another. They entertain strong relations through translation, quotation, and emulation. This conference fits within a cycle whose purpose has been to bring together critical dialogue and creative practice within the Pan-American universe of the long poem.

In the wake of the two previous conferences (Toulouse, 2013 and Madrid, 2014) which enabled us to delineate a broad map of long poem writing in the Americas, it seems essential at this point to delve deeper into the forms and traditions of the long poem by fostering comparative, genealogical, and intertextual approaches, among others. Key figures, such as Walt Whitman, Ruben Darío, T.S. Eliot, Pablo Neruda, to name but a few, have emerged as the founders of particular traditions or as valuable relays furthering cross-language exchanges and evolving the basic features of what could be called American poetics. We wish to enquire into these features and encourage papers aimed at exploring the stakes of literary influence and filiation along some of the following lines :

  •  How do long-poem traditions and canons take form ? Are these traditions national, continental ? Are there specific formal features depending on language boundaries or national borders ? Why was the “very long poem” the ultimate challenge in US poetry of the broad Objectivist tradition (Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Olson) while the “archeological poem” received emphasis in the Spanish-speaking world (Ernesto Cardenal, Martín Adán, etc.). Don’t Caribbean poetries supply crucial links and perform paramount relays between North and South ?
  •  Did these various long poem traditions arise from a desire to break away from European traditions ? Still, shouldn’t we tackle this issue from a transatlantic standpoint ? The ties between the English Romantic poem and the American long poem, between the pastoral, the English Georgics and the all-encompassing, geographic American poem would thereby be reexamined, along with those between the romance or the Spanish meditations among the ruins and the Latin-American archeological poems. Shouldn’t a new transatlantic approach—for instance, also taking the West-East transfers into account—also be developed ? It might thereby reassess the influence of Pablo Neruda’s epic poetry on his peninsular contemporaries.

    Tackling the issue in terms of circulating models, transfers and legacies will allow us to delineate the stakes of a definition of the long poem. Far from seeking to provide the ultimate, narrow definition, the participants are nonetheless encouraged to work from established categories or formats such as the very long poem, the magnum opus, the suite, the series, to name but a few. One may wonder, for instance, why Quebec poetry has produced many a suite, among the range of available models, while the very long poem and the series have thrived on US soil.

    One possible focal point for the conference, and a unifying feature of the American long poem, we wish to argue, may be found in the notion of impurity, a core concept theorized by Pablo Neruda in a 1935 text entitled “Sobre una poesía sin pureza” (“On a Poetry without Purity”). Furthermore, the ordinary, the common has long been a staple of US thought and poetry, from Emerson to Stanley Cavell. The poem’s length stems directly from a longing for comprehensiveness : lists, catalogs, parataxis become the obvious stylistic modes translating such an inclusive impulse. Is this formal bias against purity, or for impurity, always the result of social or political commitment ? One could thus investigate the “politics of poetic form” (Charles Bernstein), reassessing the relevance of the relation between politics and form (with Jacques Rancière, for example) from a historical and theoretical viewpoint.

    300-word proposals (in French, English or Spanish) with a short bio should be sent to before September 15, 2014.

    Notifications from the committee : October 15, 2014.