by Michel Delville
ISBN 978-80-7308-452-3 (paperback)
Publication date: May 2013

Price: € 4.00 (not including postage)


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This collection of essays on twentieth-century poetry and poetics is written from a wide-ranging perspective, working analytically and comparatively with literature, music, video, film, architecture and performance art.

Bringing together readings of Virgil Thomson, Gertrude Stein, Max Jacob, Louis Feuillade, Rosmarie Waldrop, Frank Zappa, Bill Viola and Pierre Alechinsky, this book attempts to delineate the possibility of a truly transversal poetics, one which creates a space for a reconsideration of contemporary poetics while navigating the complex interactions between the theory and practice.

Michel Delville teaches English and American literatures, as well as comparative literature, at the University of Liege, where he directs the Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Poetics. His previous books include The American Prose Poem (1998), J.G. Ballard (1998), Hamlet & Co (2001; with Pierre Michel), Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and the Secret History of Maximalism (2005; with Andrew Norris), and Food, Poetry, and the Aesthetics of Consumption: Eating the Avant-Garde (2009). He has also co-edited ten volumes of essays and published more than one hundred articles on literature and the arts. He is the author of two poetry collections: Entre la poire et le fromage (2013) and Le troisieme corps (2004), which was recently published in English as Third Body (2009). His awards include the SAMLA Book Award, the Choice Outstanding Book Award, the Leon Guerin Prize and the Alumni Award of the Belgian American Educational Foundation. As a musician, he has recorded and toured worldwide with various bands and collaborated with many jazz and avant-rock musicians including Dave Liebman, Elton Dean, Harry Beckett, Annie Whitehead, Dagmar Krause, Ed Mann and Chris Cutler. He has been signed to the New York-based label Moonjune Records ( since 2005. He is currently writing a book tentatively titled The Hunger Artist: Starvation, Knowledge and Resistance in the Arts, in collaboration with Andrew Norris.

"Crossroads Poetics is an impressive collection of essays that warrants slow, thoughtful engagement, not the least of which because it showcases the breadth as well as the depth of Delville's capacious intellect and wide-ranging curiosity. Of special interest is 'The Prose Poem at the Crossroads,' which updates as well as amplifies his seminal study on this important poetic form. And in this book we also see an extension of his idea of the 'loop' in the writing of Gertrude Stein as a way of thinking about repetition with a difference. In that piece, Delville crosses discourses - music and literature - to deploy metaphors that offer new perspectives on familiar texts. An essay on Frank Zappa essay may be the most surprising in the collection, since Delville thinks through Zappa's innovative and challenging compositions as a way of understanding the avant garde in ways that stretch beyond just Zappa. This is a groundbreaking book by one of our most restless scholars."
--Richard Deming (Yale University)

"Crossroads Poetics offers a rare introduction to artists resolutely geared towards capturing the associative transgressiveness characterizing contemporary signification - artistic or otherwise. Even those readers less interested in this book's meta-poetic dimension could hardly fail to appreciate its author's pioneering posture in introducing a vast catalogue of experimental creative practices. Too many to list here, and even too varied for an overview in this review, the multiple cases under scrutiny in Michel Delville's monograph ultimately succeed in conveying the perception that contemporary culture is endemically liminal as well as fundamentally dynamic, which in turn turns our consciousness - i.e. the cognitive 'device' with which we process the impulses picked up from 'remediated' creations - into a "flexible medium" (136) in its own right. Itself at a crossroads between criticism and creative writing, Crossroads Poetics remediates its own impassionedly erudite analyses of analogously eclectic compositions while weaving these into a fabric at once allusive and elusive.
--Christophe Collard, English Text Construction

"In Crossroads Poetics, Michel Delville adopts such an at once retrospective and forward-looking vision so as to both define twenty-first poetics and throw into question the meaning of "poetics" itself. [...] Delville sheds light on the role and effect of society's discursive practices on cultural production, as well as on our conception of aesthetics and aesthetic autonomy, while maintaining the rigor of traditional literary scholarship. Delville indicates the considerable heuristic potential of situating poetics in the great web of social discourse, which consists in opening closed, "high" art forms to many kinds of cultural production and their nonelite sources, thereby exposing their popular origins and giving access to formerly excluded groups. [...] Behind Delville's analyses we recognize Benjamin's idea that "theses about the developmental tendencies of art under present conditions of production" can become powerful weapons in ideological warfare - which for Benjamin of course meant the epic battle between Communism and Fascism. In a similar way to Benjamin's use of such theses to combat traditional thinking about value, genius, and creativity - according to him, subsequently appropriated and distorted to aid the Fascist cause - Delville converts poetics into his principal munitions in the struggle for democracy, individual freedom, heterogeneity, and diversity. Poetics, from his standpoint, constitutes nothing less than the foundation of who we are, how we relate to each other, and the way in which we choose to organize ourselves in society. Delville's erudition, and innovative integration of interdisciplinarity and generic crossing into his writing, as well as his original, albeit highly ideologically charged perspectives, make for a compelling read. Although the jury is still out on to what extent weapons of the sort identified by Benjamin and taken up by Delville are effective in battle, certainly Delville has made a strong case for the relationship between poetics and art works on the one hand, and ideology and politics on the other hand. Whatever the verdict we eventually pronounce, Crossroads Poetics makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of this relationship, and to scholarship in the fields of comparative poetics, Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies, and Comparative Literature."
--Renee Silverman, Comparative Literature Studies

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