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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Rage for Order: How Poetry Confronts Disaster

Christopher Bakken.

The critic Terrence des Pres defined ‘politics’ as ‘the play of impersonal force disrupting personal life.’ The presentation will evaluate the role of poetry in this new century, in particular the ways it must confront such impersonal forces and the disasters they leave in their wake. What part does poetry play in an age of global politics and global terrorism? What kind of solutions does poetry offer for the new world order and why is writing, reading and teaching it still important? Wallace Stevens asserted that poets must employ a ‘violence from within to protect us from a violence without’ and he saw poetry as having ‘something to do with self-preservation.’ Poetry performs important private and elegiac functions, giving us language when individuals might otherwise be unable to speak, but it has become increasingly important that poets perform two other public functions that also have to do with self-preservation: praise and dispraise. The presentation will draw on several examples from contemporary world poetry—including work by Adam Zagajewski, W.S. Merwin, and Derek Walcott--to evaluate what poets, in their rage for order, can offer us to confront disorder and disaster.


Christopher Bakken  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Allegheny College

Christopher Bakken is a poet, translator and essayist and is the author of AFTER GREECE, which was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize in Poetry for 2001. This book of poems was written during two years in Thessaloniki, Greece, where Bakken taught at Anatolia College and Aristotle University. He currently teaches at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania.

  • Poetry
  • Politics
  • Terrorism
  • Disaster
Person as Subject
  • Walcott, Derek Zagajewski, Adam Merwin, W.S.

(30 min Conference Paper, English)