Catherine Gander (Maynooth University)
Extending the document: the transmedial poetics of Layli Long Soldier
This talk takes as its starting point Muriel Rukeyser's dictum that 'poetry can extend the document' to consider poetry that works in a documentary vein to materialise language in various ways, often via visual, installation, and conceptual art. Employing the ‘trans’ prefix to allow for relation, passage and transformation, and understanding ‘medium’ (singular of ‘media’) as carrying a fluctuating arrangement of meanings, including a “material or mode of creative expression”; “a channel of communication”, and “one’s environment, conditions of life, or social setting” (OED), I am interested in the reciprocal, radical, resistive, and above all, communal aspects of such work.
As example, I discuss the work of the Oglala Lakota writer and artist Layli Long Soldier. I make a case for how her poetry and artworks adapt documentary poetry’s formal and aesthetic techniques—parataxis, quotation, collage, and more—and adhere to its largely Leftist political ideology to open a space between materiality and imagination, extending the document to an affective and epistemological realm that works between and beyond verbal and visual textualities.
Catherine Gander is Associate Professor of American Literature at Maynooth University, Ireland. Her academic books include Muriel Rukeyser and Documentary: The Poetics of Connection (Edinburgh UP, 2013), Mixed Messages: American Correspondences in Visual and Verbal Practices (Manchester UP, 2016), and The Edinburgh Companion to Don DeLillo and the Arts (forthcoming 2023). She is currently working on a book under contract with Cambridge UP called Extending the Document: Contemporary Transmedial Poetics (2024) and editing, with Stefania Heim, a hybrid book of critical and creative pieces called Beyond Ourselves: Contemporary Poets on Muriel Rukeyser.