The Noise in the Archive: Susan Howe’s “Telepathic” Poetics

Gulsin Ciftci

This talk explores the role of medial noise in the visual poetry of Susan Howe as it relates to her archival practice. Howe conceives of the archive as a collection of “spontaneous particulars” that offer “telepathic” encounters with history. Building on Craig Dworkin’s contention that medial noise is an important element of Howe’s poetics, this talk examines how her textual collages from “Frolic Architecture” (2010) and “Concordance” (2020) both invite and resist consideration as archival artifacts. Howe forms these poetic collages by photocopying swathes of text (some taken from the archive, some her own typescripts), cutting them up, and then rearranging them before xeroxing them again, often obscuring words (and any relevant citations) in the process. What kind of connection does such an archival study offer? Are these telepathic encounters more signal or more noise? And how is this noise rendered visually on the page?


Kelly Hoffer is a poet and book artist. Her debut collection of poetry, UNDERSHORE (May 2023), was selected by Diana Khoi Nguyen as the winner of the 2021 Lightscatter Press Prize. Her second book manuscript “Fire Series” was a finalist for the 2021 the National Poetry Series in the United States. Her scholarship and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Jacket2, Cultural Critique, and The Henry James Review. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and she is currently a doctoral candidate in Literatures in English at Cornell University, where she is completing a dissertation on the intersection of metaphor and visual form in contemporary American poetry. She will join the faculty of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2023.

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