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)
Poets generally seem a progressive lot these days, even if not stylistically. Further, though I do not evaluate what I consider “bad” poems, I do not feel indebted to traditional Western, Anglo-European aesthetic paradigms. Giving space and consideration to poems that refute Western aesthetics INTRODUCTION 21 for “alternative” aesthetics, such as Native American, Latina/o, spoken word and voice-driven aesthetics, and the African American aesthetics of hip-hop and the Black Arts Movement, which draw from African American and west African traditions of signifying and playing the dozens, foregrounds rhetorical strategy instead of any “inherent” poetic value.
Drawing from Henri Bergson, he claims that “perceptions are possible actions” (91), just as poems as perceptions, I argue, 40 AMERICAN POLITICAL POETRY represent possible worlds, actions, and communities. In the above poems, perceptions of experience reinvest past actions with new imaginative possibility even as the poems themselves become new actions.
Types of Agency in Political Poetry In chapter 1 I discuss two types of poems that utilize personal experience as a poetic strategy. I group them under the chapter heading embodied agency because both experiential agency and authoritative agency rely 24 AMERICAN POLITICAL POETRY on the speaker-poets’ lived experiences demonstrable through the human body and memory; as Massumi might argue, human agency is bodily. Poems that foreground individual and collective experience insist that the first-person perceptions, testimonies, and memories of historical actors provide the most powerful political agency for poetry.