Kinzer Examines Poetry and the Object World

By: Press Release
By: Press Release

SHERMAN, TEXAS—Greg Kinzer, Austin College associate professor of English, will present a Sabbatical Series lecture, "Poetry as Alien Phenomenology," on Tuesday, October 2, at 4:30 p.m. in Wright Campus Center, Room 231. A reception precedes the lecture at 4 p.m. in Johnson Gallery of Wright Campus Center. The events, sponsored by the Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching, are free and open to the public.

“My talk will take us on a tour through some of the strange and compelling new work by poets who seek to explore the object world around us,” Kinzer said. “My previous research focused on the way poets have engaged with science. This new project turns to the object world itself, ever-strange and nonhuman. Rather than seeing objects as static and inert, so much mute matter, my research examines the way objects, including electricity, metal, and trash, are active agents in their own right—and play increasingly important roles in our world.”

Kinzer said that people often think of poetry as a form of human expression. “My research, and my writing as a poet, start from the other side of that implied equation,” he said. “What about the object world? In so many ways, and so casually, we take the object world to be static and inert, dull matter, yet the young child who animates her toy with a life of its own knows there is something more to objects. There is always something that recedes -- always hidden, inside, inaccessible.”

Kinzer’s next scholarly book and his new book of poems, he said, seek to explore what the world looks like—“not from the standpoint of humans, but from the perspective of things: the vital life of objects; the way they act together with, and sometimes against, human desires; the way they are vital players with agendas of their own.”

“In the face of looming ecological crises, the ever-proliferating number of new kinds of inhabitants in our world brought about through genetic modification, biotechnology, and nanotechnology—not to mention the sheer amount of stuff we share our world with on a daily basis—we can't afford not to explore this world,” Kinzer said. “And of course we, too, are part of the object world. Bacteria living in the crook of the elbow help moisturize our skin; parasitic helminth worms participate in our immune system; fatty acids change our emotions.”

Kinzer’s previous book project explored the way poets have engaged with science. “My sabbatical research here is the next logical step,” he said. “It examines the renewed interest among contemporary poets in the physical world, objects, and the often blurred boundaries between the human and nonhuman. During ‘Poetry as Alien Phenomenology,’ I will take us on a tour through some of this strange and compelling new poetry and read some of my own.”

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