Silence in Contemporary Poetry

BookSilence in Contemporary Poetry

Silence in Contemporary Poetry

Clemson University Press


July 1st, 2023





This book analyzes the relationship between silence, formal innovation, and social justice in recent poetry by women, non-binary writers, and writers of color. Silence in poetry has been heretofore undertheorized, as most books that engage this topic are scholarly monographs focused on a single writer’s work, such as Therese Lentfoer’s Words and Silence: On the Poetry of Thomas Merton and Jean Franco’s Cesar Vallejo: The Dialectics of Poetry and Silence, both of which are, at this point, a bit dated. Kazim Ali’s Orange Alert: Essays on Poetry, Art, and the Architecture of Silence may very well be the only recent study of silence and poetry, and does not foreground stylistically innovative work. These scholars clearly recognize that silence offers invaluable insight into the possibilities for a reader’s imaginative work within a given text. After all, it is the space between things that makes room for the reader’s imagination, and allows room for the other to speak. However, a broader survey of silence in innovative contemporary and historical poetry will offer insight into the full range of approaches to the work that silence can do in poetry. This book engages examples ranging from dramatic verse to lyric fragments and prose poetry. Given these poets’ commitment to social justice, the readerly possibility in these texts’ gaps and elisions is rife with real-world implications, as the reader’s imaginative work in these texts almost always extends beyond the realm of language, literature, and the arts.

Author Information

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of thirty-four books, including Je Suis L’Autre: Essays & Interrogations (C&R Press, 2017), which was named one of the “Best Books of 2017” by The Brooklyn Rail; DARK HORSE: Poems (C&R Press, 2018), which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly; and two critical studies on contemporary poetry, which are forthcoming from Clemson University Press and Spuyten Duyvil Press, respectively. Her work has been recognized with an artist-in-residence position at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris; five residencies at the American Academy in Rome; two grants from the Whiting Foundation; a Faber Residency in the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities; a Morris Fellowship in the Arts; and the Dan Liberthson Prize from the Academy of American Poets, which she received on three separate occasions, among many other awards and honors. Kristina currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Press and Tupelo Quarterly, an opinion columnist at The Los Angeles Review of Books, a contributing writer at Publishers Weekly, a staff blogger at The Kenyon Review, and a freelance book critic at The New York Times Book Review. In 2019, she was named to the U.S. Fulbright Commission’s roster of Senior Specialists.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Silences in Poetry:  A Taxonomy
On Silence, Intimacy, and the Lyric Imagination
Silence, Alterity, & Poetic Voice:  From Homer to H.D., Spicer, and Twenty-First
Century Collaborative Poetry
Spare this Body, Set Fire to Another: Speech
& Silence in Recent Poetry by Kaveh Akbar, Henk Rossouw, & Brenna Womer
Silence as Threshold and Possibility
Writing Race: 
Silence as Performance & Readerly Imperative
Silence as Rupture & Revolution:  Enjambment in Feminist Poetry
Renegotiating Negativity:  Silence as Empowerment and Resistance
The Politics of Language:  Silence, Alterity & Activism
For More Than One Voice:  Fragmentation, White Space, &
In Her Light: 
Towards a Poetics of Humility
An Afterward