Using an interdisciplinary methodology drawn from musicology, poetics, cultural theory and the branch of musical improvisation known as "free improvisation," this dissertation defines and categorizes improvisation and improvisational practices in 20th Century North American poetry and poetics. Beginning with the contention that improvisation is an under-articulated concept in the field of Contemporary Poetics, the dissertation proceeds to categorically define the most iconic and successful improvisational strategies in North American poetry. Under the rubric of "idiomatic poetic improvisation," I examine the improvisational strategies in the work of Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey. Under "non-idiomatic improvisation," I discuss the following writers: David Antin, Lyn Hejinian, Steve Benson, William Carlos Williams and Andrew Levy. Steve McCaffery, Jackson Mac Low and the Four Horsemen's approach to performed poetic improvisation also falls under this second category. I also discuss scoring strategies used by performing poetic improvisers.
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Thesis advisor: Derksen, Jeff
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