By Michael Dowdy
Dowdy uncovers and analyzes the first rhetorical techniques, really figures of voice, in American political poetry from the Vietnam struggle period to the current.
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Additional resources for American Political Poetry into the 21st Century (American Literature Readings in the Twenty-First Century)
It is now the dominant, hegemonic form for printed poetry. Therefore, it is important to note that the politics of free forms is unstable and does not align precisely with oppositional values. Hip-hop lyrics, which embody a range of implicit and explicit political values, are mostly in strict form with rhyming couplets, straight rhyme, assonance, and as one book puts it, “the verse’s syntax and meter often tortured for rhythmic gain” (Costello and Wallace 24). Hip-hop, then, is more formal than most contemporary poetry, and it is often much more explicitly political.
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. Like my understanding of how poems can be “political,” my understanding of what experience is is broad.
His claim rings true for many poems I discuss in this book, regardless of their specific strategy. Tone, I argue, is important for political poems because it gives them distinctive figures of voice. Like a politician or rapper, a poem needs a distinctive voice in order for it to be memorable for its audience. Hass concludes that “on the level of form the difference between the strategies of free and metrical verse is not very great” (Twentieth 122). Metrical poems, he notes, immediately announce their patterns but free verse patterns emerge as they develop.
American Political Poetry into the 21st Century (American Literature Readings in the Twenty-First Century) by Michael Dowdy