Modernist and avant-garde poets of today continue to experiment as vigorously as their high modernist and Dada precursors. Why is experiment still so central to these poetic traditions? Experiment has been justified in many ways: by comparisons with science, as a necessary resistance to ideology and oppression, as a celebration of playful imagination, or as a response to the unfolding contingency of the world.
We asked a number of poets and critics to discuss these issues at a conference on contemporary poetry, Pressure to Experiment, hosted by the Centre for Contemporary Writing and organized by research students on our doctoral programme in poetics and contemporary literature at the University of Southampton UK. Funding came from the British Academy and the School of Humanities.
Do poets feel a pressure to experiment and how helpful is this concept of experiment compared to other ways of considering originality? What are the conditions and motivations for poetic experimentation? The result was a fascinating exchange of ideas and poems that explored these questions. An account of the conference will be available on How2 alongside live recordings of some of the poetry readings at:
What follows in this issue of Jacket magazine is an edited selection of essays based on papers given at Pressure to Experiment.