Appraising Newness: Whiteness, Neoliberalism & the Building of the Archive for New Poetry

Eunsong Kim


The Archive for New Poetry (ANP) at the University of California San Diego was founded with the specific intention of collecting alternative, small press publications and acquiring the manuscripts of contemporary new poets. The ANP’s stated collection development priority was to acquire alternative, non-mainstream, emerging, “experimental” poets as they were writing and alive, and to provide a space in which their papers could live, along with recordings of their poetry readings. In this article, I argue that through racialized understandings of innovation and new, whiteness positions the ANP’s collection development priority. I interrogate two main points in this article: 1) How does whiteness—though visible and open—remain unquestioned as an archival practice? and 2) How are white archives financed and managed? Utilizing the ANP’s financial proposals, internal administrative correspondences, and its manuscript appraisals and collections, I argue that the ANP’s collection development priority is racialized, and this prioritization is institutionally processed by literary scholarship that linked innovation to whiteness. Until very recently, US Experimental and “avant-garde” poetry has been indexed to whiteness. The indexing of whiteness to experimentation, or the “new” can be witnessed in the ANP’s collection development priorities, appraisals, and acquisitions. I argue that the structure of the manuscripts acquired by the ANP reflect literary scholarship that theorized new poetry as being written solely by white poets and conclude by examining the absences in the Archive for New Poetry.

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