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WRITING UTOPIA 2020 is a manifesto/ritual/anthology that aims to both explore and perform the art of the utopian in contemporary poetics.

“This marvellous collection creates a map of interactive writings that at times directly experiment with ideas of utopia in language or in life, and at other times embrace the performative, translative and sonic to expand the reader/writer relationship. The diversity in form and language itself suggests utopia.” 
- Ghazal Mosadeq



WRITING UTOPIA 2020 


editors: Sally-Shakti Willow & Sarer Scotthorne
cover art: Joe Evans

150 x 230 mm paperback
141 b&w pages
ISBN: 978-1916159440
high-resolution, pixel-friendly PDF £5 buy 
paperback edition £10 buy


With funding from the University of Westminster’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

“In these poems, the sticky residue of history and politics refracts the teeming stuff of dreams.”
Nisha Ramayya

“Much more than a parade of utopian reveries or dystopian nightmares, this rich, heterogeneous collection of contemporary radical writing performs the very enactment of utopian possibilities within language.” 
Bruno Neiva


“Here, utopia – and language – is intrinsically performative, fictive, and ferociously or solemnly imaginative.”
Lila Matsumoto

Writing Utopia 2020 is a tremendously generous and timely anthology, emerging into a world in the midst of weaponising ecological collapse - a world where the distinction between creation and destruction is blurred and often untenable - bristling with intellect and insurrection to sustain and aid us in making sense of it.” 
Jo Lindsay Walton

Writing Utopia 2020 contains work from:

Bernadette Mayer, Rosie Šnajdr, Gloria Dawson, Laura Elliott, Travis Newbill, Angus Sinclair, Kimberly Campanello, CAConrad, Judy Kendall, Richard Skinner, Ellen Dillon, Karen Sandhu, Vik Shirley, Lydia Unsworth, callie gardner, Derek Beaulieu, Leslie Grollman, Tracie Morris, Jeffrey Pethybridge, Anne Waldman with Ammiel Alcalay, Sacha Archer, Laynie Browne, CDN Warren, Sally-Shakti Willow, Andrew Neil Hayes, Steven Waling, Catfish McDaris, Michael Harford, Lucia Sellars, Paul Hawkins & Martin Wakefield, Astra Papachristodoulou, Lisa Jayne, Peter Jaeger, Konstantinos Papacharalampos, Megan Heise, Dolly Turing, Jazmine Linklater, Joey Frances, Vicky Sparrow, Stephen Emmerson, Scott Thurston, Julius Smit, Robert Kiely, Hijab Imtiaz translated by Sascha Aurora Akhtar & Sarer Scotthorne

This extract from Sally-Shakti Willow’s manifesto of Utopian Poetics, WRITING UTOPIA NOW, gives some background to the concept of Utopian Poetics. Click here to read the full manifesto in Studies in Arts and Humanities Journal.





Writing that best performs the utopian also resonates with Isabel Waidner’s description of radical innovation in Liberating the Canon (2018). That is: Writing that works ‘across various systems of oppression (intersectionality), across formal distinction (prose and poetry, critical and creative, and the various genres), and across disciplines’.

Examples of source texts that perform various elements of utopian poetics:

  • Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée (1982) – anticipating and performing the utopian possibilities of non-alienation (communion) and non-oppression (equality) through its linguistic and structural materiality, which opens and invites the reader into a space of intersubjective participation (which Cha calls ‘interfusion’)

  • Maggie O’Sullivan’s In the House of the Shaman (1993) – linguistic & lexical disruption and experimentation foreground language’s materiality and invite the reader to co-construct meaning from fragmentary remains

  • Anne Waldman’s Fast Speaking Woman (1996) & Trickster Feminism (2018) – laying down language as mantra, casting spells & creating rituals to make material transformation in the physical world through participation in the poem’s rhythmic action

  • CAConrad’s ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (2014) – embodying language through ritual as both protest and performance to manifest change in the material world; encouraging reader participation in both the ritual-making & the poem-making


Early roots of utopian poetics can be traced in:

  • Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hazard (1897)

  • Mina Loy’s ‘Feminist Manifesto’ (1914), ‘Aphorisms on Futurism’ (1914)

  • William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All (1923)

  • Gertrude Stein’s ‘Composition as Explanation’ (1926)

  • H.D.’s Trilogy (1946), Hermetic Definition (1972), HERmione (1981)

  • Charles Olson’s ‘Projective Verse’ (1950), ‘Proprioception’ & ‘Human Universe’ (1965)

  • Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956) & ‘Wichita Vortex Sutra’ (1966)

  • Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred (1968) foregrounds the global ritual & shamanic roots to which this manifesto of utopian poetics is indebted


Further sources of utopian poetics include:
Some or all of the poetry/writing of: Rae Armantrout; Caroline Bergvall; Laynie Browne; Diane di Prima; Lyn Hejinian; Jack Kerouac; Lila Matsumoto; Tracie Morris; Harryette Mullen; Hoa Nguyen; Lorine Niedecker; Lisa Robertson; Robert Sheppard; Scott Thurston. Bernadette Mayer’s Utopia; Paul Hawkins’ Place, Waste, Dissent; Francesca Lisette’s sub rosa; Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil’s Threads; M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong!; Nat Raha’s Of Sirens, Body & Faultlines; Dolly Turing’s Oh (Para)Cosmic Being; Samantha Walton’s Self Heal. Works of utopian poetics can also be found in the following journals and zines: Adjacent Pineapple, Blackbox Manifold, Cumulus, Datableed, Empty Mirror, Hotel, Intercapillary Space, Jungftak, para.text, Tentacular, The Projectionist’s Playground, Zarf and many more.

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