Contemporary Poetry:

Shared Futures

July 7th 2017 | Newcastle Civic Centre

Contemporary British and American Poetics: the Trans-Atlantic Avant-Garde

Panel organised by Contempo for English: Shared Futures conference, Newcastle Civic Centre, 5-7th July 2017


The legacy of a postwar Anglo-American poetry and the way in which poetics ideas have travelled between Britain and America continues to influence poetry cultures and its avant-garde communities today. This seminar examines the influences, trajectories, and interweaving histories of experimental British and American poetry since the 1960s that have significantly shaped the practices and production of poetry during the last twenty-five years. It also looks ahead to the future of the trans-atlantic avant-garde developing its international vision. The seminar will also run a live video-link via the network of the UK Centre for Contemporary Poetry.


In a reversal of the footsteps of T. S. Eliot, British-born poet Denise Levertov migrated in 1948, age twenty-five, to America; in the 1950s, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas toured America, and Scottish poet Gael Turnbull returned to Britain to start Migrant magazine, which published work by the Black Mountain Poets, alongside poets including Tom Raworth, Bob Cobbing, and Eric Mottram, who were soon to be known in the 1960s as part of the British Poetry Revival. In May 1965, Allen Ginsberg arrived in London, and offered to read anywhere for free. American poet Ed Dorn taught at University of Essex in England from 1965 to 1970. Influential small press publications including Fulcrum, Trigram, and Outburst, published many of the “new” American poets, while the experimental zines of the Language poetries in the 1970s and 80s introduced poets from the British Avant-Garde to readers in North America. J. H. Prynne, who had studied at Harvard, and a pioneer of Anglo-American modernism, brought students and scholars to Cambridge to apprentice in his lyrical experimentation.  The legacy of these trans-Atlantic poetries continues to inform and reform contemporary British and American poetry cultures and its avant-garde communities in the twenty-first century.

This seminar examines the influences, trajectories, and interweaving histories in the cross-currents of the transatlantic avant-garde since the 1960s that have significantly shaped the practises and production of poetry during the last twenty-five years. Whilst the various movements and ideas contributing to the histories of modern and contemporary British and American experimental and avant-garde poetries are well documented in poetics scholarship, there has been relatively little research devoted to the way in which ideas have travelled across and between America and Britain and of its developing international vision. And yet, as Jeff Nuttall has suggested, as recently as 1960, ‘the academic capsule was almost perfectly sealed’.

Breaking the seal, short papers (5-7 pages) will be circulated in advance of the conference, and to allow for discussion to include comparative analysis across a range of different practices, political economies, cultural histories, and aesthetic philosophies of the period. The panel is organised by the Centre for Contemporary Poetry, a cross-institutional research centre run by the English departments of Aberystwyth, Bangor, Brighton, Surrey, and Plymouth universities.


Dr Neal Alexander (Aberystwyth University), Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature

Professor Peter Barry (Aberystwyth University), Professor of English

Dr Elizabeth-Jane Burnett (Newman University, Birmingham), Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing

Dr Gavin Goodwin (Aberystwyth University), Lecturer in English and Creative Writing

Dr Karen Correia da Silva (University of Bradford), Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Dr Zoë Skoulding (Bangor University), Reader in English Literature

Dr John Wrighton (University of Brighton), Principal Lecturer in English Literature & Head of Research (School of Humanities)