Beyond Metrical Prosody: New Rhythms in US and German (Post-) Modern Poetry

Event Information

  • Thursday, May 17, 2018 - Saturday, May 19, 2018
  • Otto-von-Simson-Straße 26
  • 14195 Berlin-Dahlem

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Beyond Metrical Prosody: New Rhythms in US and German (Post-) Modern Poetry

Organized by PD Dr. Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek and Prof. Dr. Erik Redling

May 17-19, 2018, Berlin

Recent criticism (Charles Hartman, Richard Cureton, Donald Wesling, Alan Holder, Richard Andrews) has discussed the use of free verse in American poetry from Walt Whitman onwards and investigated German innovations in lyric prosody, but surprisingly little attention has been paid to the strong and continual influence of American lyric experiments on German post-WWII poetry.

The aim of our conference is twofold: It divides recent developments in American poetry into five stages (modernist poetry/imagism, jazz poetry, beat poetry/black mountain school, pop poetry and poetry slam) and, at the same time, traces the creative reception of new (American) prosodic rhythms in German poetry in each of the stages.

Following in the footsteps of Walt Whitman who attempted to forge poetry based on the rhythms of American speech and Ezra Pound’s credo to “make it new,” modern poets were seeking for postmetrical poetic prosody. And after Pound “set the pattern of cadence for modern verse” (George Steiner), Imagists like William Carlos Williams, Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) and Amy Lowell demanded from poets “to create new rhythms – as the expression of new moods.” Often these new rhythms were jazz-influenced, as in Langston Hughes’ work, W.C. Williams’ early verse, and in contemporary Yusef Komunyakaa’s poetry. Sometimes poets also sought a visual correlative for these new rhythms: William Carlos Williams’ triadic line, Olson’s composition by field, Ginsberg’s “long-line poetry” in “Howl,” Anne Waldman’s propulsive poetry, and even the very short lines of poets such as Kay Ryan reflect efforts to render distinct free verse prosodies in print.

Since the 1950s, these new rhythmic techniques have become highly influential in German lyric poetry through translations and essays by Walter Höllerer, Klaus Reichert, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Ernst Jandl, and Rolf Dieter Brinkmann. The poems of Ernst Jandl, Friederike Mayröcker, Jürgen Theobaldy, Nicolas Born, Karl Krolow, Günter Herburger, Karin Kiwus, and Christoph Derschau exhibit a profound influence by the new, (post-)modern American poetry. A systematic study of the German-American prosodic renewal, however, has not yet been made. Our conference intends to fill this gap and aims at systematically analyzing new rhythms in the poetry of the German-American (post-)modern era.

The full program can be found below, and the poster downloaded in the sidebar. Please feel free to download the flyer with the complete program here.

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Thursday,  May 17 15:00-15:30

Welcome and Introduction

PD Dr. Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek (FU Berlin)
Prof. Erik Redling (MLU Halle)

Section I. Theoretical Approaches to Free Verse Prosody (Chairs: Meyer-Sickendiek und Redling)

“What is Free Verse Prosody” (Keynote)

Prof Dr. Richard Andrews (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)

16:30-17:00 Coffee Break

“A Reading in Temporal Poetics: Rhythm and Form in Langston Hughes’ ‘Harlem Sweeties'” (Keynote)

Prof. Dr. Richard Cureton (University of Michigan, MI)

18:00-19:30 Dinner (Buffet, FU Berlin)

Evening Event: Podium Diskussion

“Making Audio Visible: Poetry’s Coming Digital Presence”

Prof. Charles Bernstein (PennSound)
Thomas Wohlfahrt (Lyrikline)
Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek (Rhythmicalizer)

Friday, May 18 Section II.The Pattern of Cadence: New Rhythms in Modernist Poetry (1910-1930) (Chair: Prof. Dr. Ulla Haselstein, FU Berlin)

“Spoken Art and Dialect Writing: Amy Lowell’s Polyphonic Prose and Flexible Rhythms

Prof. Dr. Erik Redling (MLU Halle-Wittenberg)


“From Robert Frost’s ‘Loose Iambics’ to A. R. Ammons’ ‘Diversifications’”

Jonathan Culler (Cornell University, NY):

10:30-11:15 Coffee break

“‘Natural’ – ‘Necessary’ – ‘Cosmic’: Shifting Concepts of Rhythm and Verse in Arbo Holz’s Modernist Poetics and Poetry”

PD Dr. Benjamin Specht (Universität Erlangen)

12:00-14:00 Lunch (Restaurant Galileo, FU Berlin)
 Section III. The Impulse of Jazz Music: Syncopation, Improvisation, and Free Verse Prosody
(Chair: Dieter Burdorf, Universität Leipzig)

“Playing the Changes: Jazz, Poetry, and Form”

Prof. Dr. Sascha Feinstein (Lycoming College, PA)


“Prosody as Experiment: Jandl, Cage, and Jazz”

Prof. Dr. Monika Schmitz-Evans (Universität Bochum)

15:30-16:00 Coffee break

“‘Die alten Jazzmänner'”: Brinkmann’s Art of improvisation

Prof. Dr. Jan Röhnert (TU Braunschweig)


“Sound/Writing: Homophonic Translation, Performance, and the Pataquerical Imagination”

Prof. Dr. Charles Bernstein (University of Pennsylvania, PA)

18:00-19:30 Dinner (Restaurant Galileo, FU Berlin)

Evening Event: “Poetic Speech Melody: A Crucial Link Between Music and Language” (Keynote)

Prof. Dr. Winfried Menninghaus (MPI Frankfurt)

Saturday, May 19 Section IV. “The Breath Controlled Line”:  Beat Literature and Black Mountain Poetry(Chair: Prof. Dr. Ralph Poole, Universität Salzburg)

“The Rhythm of Experience: Black Mountain Poetry and John Dewey”

Prof. Dr. Stephen A. Fredman (University of Notre Dame, IN)


“Rainer Maria Gerhardt as Translator and Facilitator”

Prof. Dr. Agnes C. Müller (University of South Carolina, SC)

10:30-11:00 Coffee Break

“‘Theses on the long Poem’: Walter Höllerer’s Influential Adaption of the ‘Projective Verse'”

PD Dr. Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek (FU Berlin)

12:00-14:00 Lunch (Restaurant Galileo, FU Berlin)
Section V: Loops, Beats, and Breaks: Free Verse Prosody in the Age of Hip Hop, Rap, and Slam Poetry (Chair: Prof. Dr. Jan Röhnert, TU Braunschweig)

“From Rap to Trap: New Flow-Variations in German Hip Hop”

Dr. Fabian Wolbring (Universität Bonn)


“The Sound of German Slam Poetry: An Echo of American Spoken Word?”

Prof. Dr. Petra Anders (FU Berlin)



Sascha Feinstein (Lycoming College, PA)


Final Remarks, Farewell and Information about the Publication

PD Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek and Prof. Erik Redling



Fotos: Stefan Müller, BerlinProjekt FU Seminarzentrum Mensa IIBauherr Freie Universität BerlinFertigstellung April 2006

Venue: Beyond Metrical Prosody 2018

The conference rooms will be located at the FU Seminarzentrum Mensa II, and all discussions (including evening events) will be held here. The converted cafeteria has been transformed to offer a flexible space to suit various needs.

The address is:

Otto-von-Simson-Straße 26, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem


Foto: Stefan Müller, BerlinProjekt FU Seminarzentrum Mensa II 2006



Seminaris Campus Hotel Berlin

You will be staying at the Seminaris Campus Hotel in Berlin. All rooms are air conditioned and equipped with high-speed Internet access (LAN/WLAN), writing desk, telephone, flat-screen TV, safe, minibar, hair-dryer, cosmetic mirror, shower, and WC. It is located approximately a 20-minute’s drive from Berlin Central Station, or a 5 minute walk from the U-Bahn stop Dahlem- Dorf (Berlin).

For further details please visit the Seminaris Hotel website.

The address of the hotel is:

Seminaris CampusHotel Berlin
Takustraße 39
14195 Berlin
Fon.: +49 (0) 30 557797-0
Fax: +49 (0) 30 557797-100



All conference guests will be served lunch and dinner at Ristorante Galileo . It is conveniently located above the rooftops of the Freie Universität Berlin. The restaurant offers its guests a wide array of Italian dishes as well as specialties from Apulia.

For further details please visit the Ristorante Galileo website.

The address of the restaurant is:

Ristorante Galileo
Otto-von-Simson Straße 26
14195 Berlin
Tel: 030 / 831 23 77



symbol directions

By Car from the North

A 115 southward, AS 2 Hüttenweg direction city, turn left into Clayallee, right into Königin-Luise-Str., right into Fabeckstraße / right onto Otto-von-Simson-Straße.

From the West: A2 / A 10 / A 115 direction Potsdam/Berlin / AS 4 Zehlendorf / B1 Potsdamer Chaussee / turn left Clayallee / right Königin-Luise-Str. / right into Fabeckstraße / right onto Otto-von-Simson-Straße.

By Car from the South

via A 103 / AS 5 Schlossstraße to the B1, Unter den Eichen, turn right into Fabeckstraße then left onto Otto-von-Simson-Straße.

From the East: via A 12 / A 10 / A 113 direction airport BBI (Schönefeld) / A 100 / A 103 / AS 5 Wolfensteindamm, turn right into Schlossstraße direction Dahlem / left into Grunewaldstraße / left into Königin-Luise-Straße / left into Lansstraße / left onto Fabeckstraße / right onto Otto-von-Simson-Straße. 

Arrival by plane

Roughly 25 min. by taxi from Tegel Airport (15 km) and roughly 30 min. by public transport.
Roughly 45 min. by taxi from Schönefeld Airport (25 km) and roughly 60 min. by public transport.


Public Transporation to FU Seminarzentrum Mensa II

The Seminar-Center can be reached by both bus and subway. The nearest bus stops are Löhleinstr. (Berlin), which can be reached with the 110, M11 or N3 bus lines, or Hittorfstr. (Berlin) with the M11. Alternatively the closest subway stops are Freie Universität (Thielplatz) or Dahlem-Dorf, both on the U3 line.

If coming from the Seminaris Campushotel, it is just an 8 minutes’ walk away, via Lansstraße and Otto-von-Simson-Straße.