By Michael Dowdy
Dowdy uncovers and analyzes the first rhetorical suggestions, rather figures of voice, in American political poetry from the Vietnam conflict period to the current.
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Extra info for American Political Poetry into the 21st Century (American Literature Readings in the Twenty-First Century)
He writes, “it produces if not the real then certainly a sensation of experiencing the real ” (34; original emphasis). ” As I wrote earlier, “poetry is often seen as a ‘natural’ medium for the recounting and examining of personal experience” (Roberts and Allison 1), but a poetry of experience is best when it is complicated rather than “natural,” if “natural” signifies simply and transparently representative of lived experience. Using personal experience in poetry is often seen as problematic and as a potential limit to creativity and innovation.
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. Like my understanding of how poems can be “political,” my understanding of what experience is is broad. Simply put, these poems generally use the lived experiences of real historical actors. As Walter Benjamin believed, personal experience is the content and “source” of storytelling. ” For Benjamin, the horrors of the twentieth century did much to endanger our “ability to exchange experiences” with each other through stories (83).
This indirection can lead to a ghostly sense of absence in many poems. These poems, moreover, often articulate utopian or dystopian visions that depart from identifiable contexts, speakers, and human presence, thereby asserting the primary agency of the imagination. These poems suggest that persuasion and the representation of realistic lived experience are unnecessary for political poetry, while their eerie, parodic, and prophetic voices are able to make more global claims than poems of experience can.