Poetics of Mess: Accidental Readings


Writing in The Spectator Addison described the appeal of “accidental readings”: he discovered poetry on scraps of paper in pie-linings, kites and candle-fringes. It was not simply the chance encounter with a poem that interested him but also the accidental congruence between a poem’s subject and its subsequent material use.

I am interested in the moment when a poem seems to find its occasion, by accident. What is the role of accident in poetic composition? What happens when the world of things obtrudes on and shapes a poem? During my time at CRASSH I will think about these questions in interdisciplinary terms, drawing on philosophical investigations of accident (such as Ross Hamilton's), Roger Chartier's thinking about inscription and erasure and Didi-Huberman's discussion of the semiotics of the stain.


This investigation forms part of a new project which considers the forms and meanings of accident in poetry from Addison to Hardy, offering an account of poetic composition which combines an interest in the materials with and in which writers work with an interest in the relation between poetic form and subject. The book will include case studies of Clare, Burns, Dickinson and Hardy. Not only was mess central to their poetic practices, it often afforded occasion for writing. But these are not occasional poems in the received sense, grand rhetorical commemorations of a historically significant occasion, they celebrate and register more ordinary disruptions and messy disturbances. Together they suggest a new kind of occasional poetry.


Mino Gorji is an Early Career Fellow at CRASSH, Easter 2012.

Dr Mina Gorji is currently a lecturer at the Faculty of English.  Her DPhil in English on Clare's Complex Words: A Study of Literary Effects in the Poetry of John Clare, was awarded at the University of Oxford in 2003. Her research interests are literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth century and especially poetry. Current research interests include: literary vulgarity; the relationship between literary and spoken language; the poetics of anthology; literature and popular culture. Publications include John Clare and the Place of Poetry, Liverpool University Press, 2008 and Everyday Poetry: William Hone's Popular Anthology, Romanticism and Popular Culture, Ed. Phillip Connell and Nigel Leask, 2008.


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