The Plastic Expression, the Fruitful Sphere : European Poets and Sculptors in the Twentieth Century

A one-day conference organised by The Centre for Modern European Literature, University of Kent, in collaboration with the Henry Moore Institute

Seminar Room, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 20th November 2009

Organisers: Prof. Peter Read and Dr. Ben Hutchinson, University of Kent

It is striking how many leading European poets of the 20th century turned to sculpture as an art form which they saw as analogous to poetry. Rilke on Rodin, Pound on Gaudier-Brzeska, and Francis Ponge, Jacques Dupin and Yves Bonnefoy on Giacometti are just five examples of poets who sought to measure their poetics against a sculptural aesthetic. Yet what is the common interest of modern poetry and sculpture in processes of poeisis, of making? Pound called sculpture « peculiarly a thing of the twentieth century » but what is the precise force of the analogy between poetry and sculpture in this period?

This conference seeks to explore the relationship between modern poetry and sculpture from a European perspective. Can differences in emphasis and approach be discerned which one could ascribe to differing cultural traditions across Europe or is there rather a striking homogeneity between the many poetic approaches to sculpture? Does the response to sculpture by poets represent an enhancement of, or an escapist digression from, their own poetics?

In response to such questions, the conference will adopt a doubly comparative approach, exploring both the general relationship between poetry and sculpture in the 20th century and its specific manifestations in different times and locations.

The programme will include the following speakers and topics :

Prof. Mark Antliff (Professor of Art History, Duke University): « Anarchist Vortex/Sculptural Nominalism: Gaudier-Brzeska and Pound »

Prof. Roger Cardinal (Emeritus Professor of Literary and Visual Studies, University of Kent): « Jacques Dupin and an alternative voicing of space: a poet’s response to Giacometti and Chillida »

Dr. Charlie Louth (Fellow in German, The Queen’s College, Oxford): « Rilke, Rodin and the Syntax of Surface »

Alastair Noble (sculptor; Assistant Professor, Department of Art, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania): « Mallarmé’s Shadow »

Prof. Eric Robertson (Professor of Modern French Literary and Visual Culture, Royal Holloway, University of London): « Arp’s Concretions »

Dr. Sarah Turner (Teaching Fellow in History of Art, University of York): « The poetics of permanence: poetry, carving and letter-cutting in the 20th century »

James Wishart (King’s College, University of London): « Olivier Larronde’s encounter with Giacometti: the historicity of poetic forms »

The conference will close with a panel discussion open to all speakers and delegates.

The fee for this conference will be £10/£5 concessions and will include lunch and refreshments.

To register for attendance at this conference please contact Kirstie Gregory:, 0113 246 7467.

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