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Long before the internet, certain word-strings have always “gone viral,” colonizing minds by infectious means, mouth to ear, without need of the literary apparat and its customary gray vectors: tenured professors, annotated anthologies, editorial and critical harrumph. We’ll collect specimens of this subliterary sort, including jokes, riddles, curses, charms, weather-saws, and prayers and consider how they do it. In that sense, this may devolve into a lightning taxonomy of the several live magics constituting Ars Poetica; curse us if we don’t keep it light.
Richard Kenney’s most recent of four books is The One-Strand River (Knopf, 2007). His work has attracted honors, among them fellowships from the MacArthur, Guggenheim, Ingram Merrill, and Lannan Foundations, the Rome Prize in Literature, and the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize. He teaches undergraduate- and MFA-level creative writing at the UW.