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Fugitive Pamphlets

Fugitive Pamphlets: Anthologizing Poetry in the Global Sixties

August 1st – December 30th, 2015

Special Collections Exhibit

Fugitive Pamphlets: Anthologizing Poetry in the Global Sixties is a new exhibit of items from Northwestern University’s special collections, curated by Northwestern Undergraduates in English and Comparative Literary Studies. On display now in the Deering Library, this exhibit will be up until December 30, 2015.

When Donald Allen introduced his key anthology of post-war experimental writing, The New American Poetry 1945-1960 (1960), he imagined it publicizing the ephemeral print cultures of marginalized communities of writers: “These new younger poets have written a large body of work, but […] only a fraction of the work has been published, and that for the most part in fugitive pamphlets and little magazines.” Across the decade, other anthologies similarly drew attention to new literary scenes, circuits, and coteries of experimental writing in the US and abroad. However, the anthology (as a classroom tool or a consecrator of prestige) sometimes smoothed over the aesthetic interest in the small press dynamics Allen mentions. In the course “Poetry in Public: The 1960s,” fifteen Northwestern undergraduates excavated the networks of poets associated with The New American Poetry, as well as those who wrote in similar idioms around the world. Anthologies including Allen’s The New American Poetry, Emmett Williams’s Anthology of Concrete Poetry (1967), and Amiri Baraka’s Black Fire (1968) connected ever-larger communities of experimental writers. New media forms such as Richard O. Moore’s educational television series USA: Poetry (1966) anthologized poetry for wider audiences. Magazines such as El corno emplumado (1962-1969) included ‘mini-anthologies’ of diverse national poetries in their pages, paving the way for the expansive internationalism of the late 1960s. In exploring how editors and writers “collected” 1960s poetries, the exhibit uses anthologies as roadmaps returning us to the material networks of poetic communication that anthologists often simplified.

The works were selected and researched in the Charles Deering McCormick Library Special Collections by the undergraduates in Professor Harris Feinsod’s spring 2015 course, “Poetry in Public: the 1960s.” The lead curator is Alex Daly, a rising junior with a double major in English and CLS, who completed the exhibit with the support of a URAP grant.