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Essayisms Reading Group: Modern Poets’ Essays

Monday 8 February 2021, 5.00PM

Please join us to discuss essays by three modern poets: Tonya Foster, Susan Howe and William Carlos Williams.

In ‘An Essay on Virginia’, William Carlos Williams asserts that ‘[t]he essay is the most human literary form in that its always sure, it remains from the first to last fixed. Nothing affects it. It may stop, but if it stops that is surely the end and so it remains perfect, just as with an infant which fails to continue’ (Imaginations 321). In contrast to Williams’ emphasis on fixity, Tonya Foster’s essay ‘Continued…’ collages lively conversations about politics, identity and the nation. The online form of Foster’s essay further problematizes Williams’ definition, for the essay’s conversations continue in the comments section. Foster—like our third poet-essayist Susan Howe—provides space for other poets to contribute to the essay, such as when she evokes Emily Dickinson’s thoughts on the concept of ‘hope’.

In this reading group session we invite conversation on the ways in which poets write about writing: What does the poet gain from the essay form that she cannot find in poetry? How do these particular poets challenge our concept of the essay? 

All are welcome! Please contact Bryony Aitchison ( for access to readings or any questions about getting involved.

Please register your attendance via the link provided

Location: Zoom