Poet-collectors during the cold war. Poetry as queer archive

Start - End 
2014 - 2018 (ongoing)
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Additional tags 
English literature



This project explores the ways in which American experimental poets struggled to create poetry that countered the Cold War ideology, and examines how the method of collecting-archiving was used in their efforts. The Cold War ‘containment culture’ suppressed all expressions of difference and deviance, ranging from the ‘red scare’ of communism to the ‘lavender scare’ of homosexuality. Everything was classified and contained within categories, so as to separate the (hetero)normative from the deviant. This study sheds new light on the post-WWII poetry of Marianne Moore, John Ashbery, and Ronald Johnson. These poets used the modernist method of collecting-archiving as a subversive strategy to express a queer poetics, and in doing so deployed a Cold War containment mechanism against itself. In tune with the queer theory by critics such as Lee Edelman, Lauren Berlant, and Ann Cvetkovich, these poet-collectors created subversive, queer archives that explore alternative histories and temporalities.