Bhanu Kapil’s foreword to UEA’s 2021 Poetry MA anthology, published by Egg Box and available HERE.
The Future of Poetry
In the mid to late spring of 2021, I had the pleasure of Zooming with many poets at the University of East Anglia.
We spoke about the body, which is to say, the relationship between the life you’re actually living and what’s on the page.
We spoke about the edge of the page in the way that other communities speak about terrain.
What moves or slips beneath the page, for example, in the moments that we stop writing, if only to lift our pen or our fingertip from the paper, or the outer material of our device?
Some ideas: water, mineral seams, a memory that isn’t absorbed by anything and thus keeps falling, producing traces or stains.
In this thinking near writing, or with it, we found analogues to trauma and embodiment: gestures and encounters of many kinds. To generalise, this is what we spoke about when we spoke about poetry, and it’s from the shape of this conversation that I could extend some thoughts, as I’ve been invited to do, on the future of poetry.
No, that’s not possible.
It’s the question I forgot to ask you when we met.
Where are you going? How will you/did you: arrive?
These questions fall differently in an era or historical present in which the open possibility of arrival is no longer available as a metaphor for what a book could be.
Perhaps the question I could ask or pose in this foreword, as a conduit to the future book, is the one I did manage to ask, in the first minutes of a masterclass I taught this spring. In fact, it’s not my own question, but rather, a question asked by the sculptor-ceramicist (artist) Gina Adams, when she visited a poetry workshop I was teaching, about two years ago.
‘What do you burn to say?’*
Pay attention to what you felt or knew when you heard this question for the first time.
Find a way to stay in contact with that glimpse, then move it through the materials of your work.
The answer to this question is the only adequate response to the title of this foreword.
The future of poetry is gestural, circadian, blobby and real.
*[Please substitute, for the last line of this foreword, whatever it is you know, having answered these questions, or asked them, in your notebook, your heart, or at 7.45 pm on a Thursday evening in East Anglia in June, when it’s raining. No, the sky is still a milky blue.]