The lyric poem has become one of the few vehicles for the formal of subjective experience, the voice of “the personal.” At least, that is how we popularly characterize the lyric. But what happens when the lyric’s commitments to the personal, or the psychological abut the facts of the social and political worlds and ideologies? How does the “personal” lyric reform when challenged by repressive regimes, absolutist ideologies, or historical traumas? How do poetic forms and ambitions change? does the lyric poem adapt or resist, under such pressures? –or [less defensively], can lyric poetry serve a documentarian purpose? A subversive purpose? Can it bear moral witness or provoke political change? Does poetry really make nothing happen?
We move through various genres and thematic modes [pressures on the lyric under totalitarian/rightist regimes, under occupation, under conditions of extreme poverty, in situations of repression based on gender or object-choice, in exile, under threat of linguistic extinction, and in other situations.] We consider whether literary Modernism was a dead-end, or incomplete project, and we consider how satire, or pastiche, or laugher, or formal reorganization, can also become forms of social “testimony” or witness. We work through poems by South American and Spanish writers [Federico García Lorca, Gabriela Mistral, Antonio Machado, Pablo Neruda], Greek/North African [Constantine Cavafy], Russian [Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak], Ukrainian and the Ukrainian Diaspora [e,g, Ilya Kaminsky], Caribbean [Aimé Césaire], Palestinian [Mahmoud Darwish], German [Paul Celan, Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Nelly Sachs]. and Polish [including Czesław Miłosz, Wisława Szymborska].