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May 18, 2006, 7:30 PM

What Happens in a Poem

Participants: Michael Braziller (moderator), Timothy Donnelly, Anne-Marie Levine, David Pollens, Alice Quinn, David Shapiro

We all know that reading certain poems can be a deeply moving and unforgettable experience, yet much conventional criticism fails to explain our response to, or our connection with, poetry. By examining the linguistic and imaginative powers at work in various poems, this panel of poets, critics and editors explores the unique ways in which poetry can affect us. Several short poems are discussed in depth for their imagery, music and voice -- that lyrical realm of conscious and unconscious awareness out of which poetry speaks to us. The panel looks at the arch or movement within individual poems, and how often the meaning of a poem seems to reside more in its emotional and lyrical quality than in its intellectual theme. The role of political and social criticism is discussed. The panel also attempts to make connections between poetic and psychoanalytic experience in respect to how both explore conflict and chaos in pursuit of resolution and clarity.

Michael Braziller is Co-founder and Publisher of Persea Books, an independent literary publishing house.

Timothy B. Donnelly has been poetry editor of Boston Review since 1995. His first collection of poems, Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit, was published by Grove Press in 2003; he teaches in the Writing Division of Columbia University's School of the Arts.

Anne-Marie Levine is a former concert pianist, author of three books of poetry, and a visual artist. She's currently at work on an autobiographical book that combines image and text, and on a visual arts project called Box Poems.

David Pollens is a member of the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, where he is on the faculty and is Assistant Director of the Treatment Center. His poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and Poetry.

Alice Quinn is the poetry editor of The New Yorker and executive director of the Poetry Society of America. She is the editor of the just-published Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments by Elizabeth Bishop.

David Shapiro is Professor in Art History at William Paterson University and teaches poetry and architectural aesthetics at Cooper Union. He is the author of more than 20 volumes of poetry and art and literary criticism. His Palach poem was dedicated in Prague by then president Vaclav Havel.


Discussion Board

This forum allows for an ongoing discussion of the above Philoctetes event. You may use this space to share your thoughts or to pose questions for panelists. An attempt will be made to address questions during the live event or as part of a continued online dialogue.
Christopher Parker says:
It seems to me that this, almost, science of poetry, has not moved forward since a start on the topic by Hudson Maxim in the 1910 book, The Science of Poetry and the Philosophy of Language. What I mean in there seems to be no continuing look and the science of poetry, ie what happens in the brain with certain connections of meter, meaning, dialect, metaphor etc. The science of the music and how its affect on the brain has been studied to some degree. Any suggestions about where I can look for further information on this? Thanks Chris Parker

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