The third issue of Barzakh is engaged in the question of form. “Formalism” continues to be a problematic term in contemporary poetics, particularly in its relationship to literary history. The history of meter bears the traces of patriarchal elitism, particularly during the periods when the writing of poetry and the identification of oneself as poet so often found its analogue in a white, racist, upper middle class fantasy. For female writers and people of color, formal verse may present a problematic terrain, as some have felt excluded from traditional forms. However, one only needs to look as far as the works of this issue’s featured poet Evie Shockley to realize that traditional forms can be claimed, re-imagined and renewed. Of the opportunities for intervention in formal traditions, Shockley writes, “Reading widely …has, indeed, not so much reconciled the “formalist” and “anti-formalist” positions as it has exploded the terms form and formalism altogether. I embrace all that these terms can mean and exploit and enjoy all kinds of writing in form. What I particularly enjoy is playing with the rules of form in order to highlight their arbitrariness or model resistance to the constraints, even as I engage them. It’s a way of making agency visible.” Form need not be conceptualized as wedded to convention or cultural exclusion. In Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Toni Morrison writes, ”Those of us who come from traditions of oppression find ourselves estranged from canonical texts, and must fight—against them and our arguments with them—to own them.”
Barzakh engages writing, critical and creative, that considers how formal poetry may be decolonizing, denaturalizing oppressive structures and supplying the writer with the possibility of discovery, both of self and other. Moreover, Barzakh wishes to consider in what ways traditional and experimental forms may provide an efflorescent zone for marginalized communities.
- Sarah Giragosian
Anna Elena Eyre
Undergraduate Interns and Contributing Editors
Pierre Joris and Tomás Urayoán Noel
Sandra Gardner / RedFrau
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