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What is here now: Assembling poetry in Canada after the Spatial Turn

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
In my dissertation “What is Here Now: Assembling Poetry in Canada after the Spatial Turn,” I examine how an array of twenty-first century poetry responds to and critiques the ways Canada assembles in the present, shaped by processes and logics of dispossession, exclusion, and elimination, amidst global and local circulations of capital and labour. Any spatial reading of Canada must begin with a Canada that is not an essentialized geography, but is instead a set of emergent and assembling relations that constantly needs to be maintained, stabilized, and policed. I argue that we must approach poetry’s relationship to (and relationships in) space by conceptualizing poetry as a part of complex and historically shaped processes that emerge from the ground up, from the ways that actors, human and otherwise, engage one another. Through this assemblage model, I ask three central questions that bridge the difficult material and conceptual leaps between part and whole as they shape one another. First, what are the stakes for individuals and communities as spatial assemblages stabilize and destabilize, as spaces provide (or fail to provide) a stable ground on which to organize? Second, in space as it stabilizes and destabilizes, how do actors engage one another and what concerns, ethical or otherwise, shape those intimate relations? And third, how are individual actors articulated within (or excluded from) the array of relations that compose a space? I answer these three intersecting questions by turning to three major problematics in contemporary Canadian poetry. First, I look at Vancouver poetry about urban redevelopment as it engages with processes of stabilization and destabilization in the work of Wayde Compton, Cecily Nicholson, Lisa Robertson, Mercedes Eng, and Lee Maracle. Second, I look at questions of ethical engagement through ecologically invested poetry (or “ecopoetry”) in the work of Rita Wong, Christian Bök, Stephen Collis, Jordan Scott, Angela Rawlings, Adam Dickinson, and Fred Wah. Third, I look at the processes and codes that articulate potential spatial practices for racialized communities in the work of Roy Miki, Dionne Brand, Phinder Dulai, Erín Moure, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Annharte, and Marvin Francis.
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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Derksen, Jeff
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