By Clemens Spahr
Tackling issues reminiscent of globalization and political activism, this publication lines engaged poetics in twentieth century American poetry. Spahr presents a complete view of activist poetry, beginning with the good melancholy and the Harlem Renaissance and relocating to the Beats and modern writers corresponding to Amiri Baraka and Mark Nowak.
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Extra resources for A Poetics of Global Solidarity: Modern American Poetry and Social Movements
The poem’s protagonist experiences the seamy underside of a typical modern city, the “halfdeserted streets,/ The muttering retreats/ Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels” (Eliot, Complete Poems 3). In a similar manner, “New York and I” filters its apostrophe to New York through the city’s material conditions. The poem demystifies the liberal subject by illustrating how it is in fact subjected to forces beyond its own control. Eliot’s poem ultimately offers a bleak portrait of the people who constitute the city.
Rolfe encourages the reader to accept the idea that the cyclical economic crises that result from global capitalism (the seasons of death) will only beget more corpses. While the public poet Giovannitti celebrated a working-class solidarity that constituted itself through the socioeconomic contradictions of the 1910s, Rolfe more carefully puts the tragic stories of the Great Depression on display through an irritating, unsettling imagery in order to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that the Great Depression was not an aberrant episode in the history of global capitalism, but its logical, periodically recurring result.
These poems figure as a temporary refuge from which new ways of seeing America’s role in the post–World War II world can emerge and suggest new strategies to envision a global solidarity. The fourth chapter, “From Cuba to Vietnam: Anti-Imperialist Poetics and Global Solidarity in the Long Sixties,” shows that with the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement and “the Movement” (cf. Terry Anderson) in the long Sixties, the time period from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, political poets found themselves again thrust into the public sphere.