By Michael Dowdy
Dowdy uncovers and analyzes the first rhetorical ideas, really figures of voice, in American political poetry from the Vietnam struggle period to the current.
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Additional info for American Political Poetry into the 21st Century (American Literature Readings in the Twenty-First Century)
This kind of poetry separates the speaker in some capacity from the limitations of personal experience and the conventions that implicitly govern poems of memory, witness, and interiority. Jane Frazier’s essay on Merwin’s “disembodied narrators” points to how the poems in this chapter “lack a particular self so that they may make their quests without the burdens of the ego”; as such, the speakers’ actions “remain part of a journey or process” rather than discrete end points (341). In much the same way, many of the speakers in the poems of this chapter are “disembodied narrators” who often move through their lines like ghosts.
Poems of migratory agency thus have bilingual textures that challenge English’s position as the approved language for poetic, social, and political expression in the United States. In these poems language comprises a contestatory public sphere redolent with political ramifications. Though the primary site of production for these poems is North America, their visions tend toward Latin America, the marginalized spaces of “American” culture, and the Spanish language. As Stephen Tapscott notes, the status of poetry in Latin America is vastly different than in the United States and the poet’s standing in many Latin American countries is more public and revered.
Gibbons claims that the “evaluation of political poetry” must always lead to the phrase “political evaluation of poetry” (297). My evaluative methods and choices are political in that I do not evaluate politically conservative poems, and I occasionally value representative breadth above aesthetic brilliance. Explicitly conservative poems (in terms of viewpoint, rather than in terms of style) are, in any case, difficult to find. Poets generally seem a progressive lot these days, even if not stylistically.
American Political Poetry into the 21st Century (American Literature Readings in the Twenty-First Century) by Michael Dowdy