Sam Kemp


This project investigates the role of the artistic techniques of the dérive and détournement in the work of contemporary poets Susan Howe and Peter Riley, exploring the ways in which these poets adapt, develop and draw inspiration from Situationist avant-garde practices of the mid to late twentieth century. The study consists of two chapters, preceded and followed by an introduction and conclusion. My introduction introduces the key features of the Situationist theory of psychogeography, a radical walking technique aimed at undermining the spectacle of urban commercialism in 1950s Paris, and demonstrates how the frameworks of the dérive and détournement, key psychogeographic practices, provide a fresh insight into Howe and Riley’s poetics, an approach that is generally overlooked in contemporary radical poetry criticism. The first chapter focuses on the ways in which Peter Riley uses the Situationist dérive in order to negotiate the cultural landscape of the British 8 countryside, his collection Alstonefield (2003) forming a psychogeographic investigation into spaces of nostalgia, contradiction and pastoralism in British ruralism. This chapter will argue that Riley adapts the urban dérive for a contemporary rural landscape, exploring the radicalisms of pastoral tropes and exposing the spectacle in British rural perceptions. The second chapter focuses on the role of détournement in Susan Howe’s sequence Frolic Architecture (2011), arguing that Howe’s visual fragmentation of appropriated sources adapts Situationist theory on language, power and architecture from the streets of Paris to the spaces of the archives. Howe’s collection appropriates text from the archives of Seventeenth Century theologian Jonathan Edwards, fragmenting his sermons in order to challenge the restrictions of historical identity and archival confines. The conclusion explores how my own practice as a poet has developed in relation to Mythogeography, a contemporary branch of psychogeography coined by walking artist Phil Smith, and my aim in this chapter is to contextualise my own drift through the archives of renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, and the physical landscape of one of his projects, Cockington, in South Devon.

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Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.