A Poetics of Global Solidarity: Modern American Poetry and by Clemens Spahr

By Clemens Spahr

Tackling subject matters reminiscent of globalization and political activism, this ebook lines engaged poetics in twentieth century American poetry. Spahr offers a finished view of activist poetry, beginning with the nice melancholy and the Harlem Renaissance and relocating to the Beats and modern writers reminiscent of Amiri Baraka and Mark Nowak.

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He is trapped in a strange state of unease (“vaguely/ feeling all’s not well”) and an isolation that leads to emotional and creative exhaustion (“too tired to read”). The speaker feels agitated and restless, but he is not able to channel these emotions into activity: “Here I am not surrendered to my poem/ nor master of its words and images” (98). Desperate to find a resolution but incapable of doing so, the conflicting situation in which the poet finds himself leads him to realize that it is impossible to lose oneself in a quasi-romantic death in writing.

Firmly rooted in both Greenwich Village’s bohemian scene and the labor movement (cf. D’Attillio 135), Giovannitti represented an alliance between the poetic imagination and international social and political movements that was a dominant characteristic of leftist poetry from the 1910s roughly until the end of World War II. From the time of what John P. Diggins has called the “Lyrical Left” (Diggins 93–144; cf. Wetzsteon 1–91) to the time of the Popular Front in the 1930s—the coalition of Communists, socialists, and New Deal progressives that was united in its antifascism and its interest in the arts as an educational tool—engaged writers tied poetry to political activism and frequently used it as a means of mass mobilization.

In the course of the novel’s narrative, these 22 ● A Poetics of Global Solidarity protests against the incarceration of labor activists feature prominently in Dos Passos’s transformation into a committed radical (cf. A. Green 81). Dos Passos’s dormitory scene is representative of the public singing of lyrics in the 1910s, as well as the distribution of poems and the circulation of poem cards (cf. Nelson, Revolutionary Memory 28–36), which turned poetic expression into a literary instrument in the service of social change.

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