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By Michael Dowdy

Dowdy uncovers and analyzes the first rhetorical options, fairly figures of voice, in American political poetry from the Vietnam battle period to the current.

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That the law must be compatible with how people actually arrange their lives. The way law stays alive is by keeping in touch with social contracts pieced together among real people on the ground” (108). I begin this chapter with de Soto because of his words’ striking parallels with the modus operandi of the poems of embodied agency. One need only substitute “poetry” for “the law” to make de Soto’s claim about on-the-ground experience a perfect gateway into the poetry of this chapter. The poems I discuss demand that we see that experience “gives life” to poetry.

He seemingly rejoiced in them up to his assassination in 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, murdered before he was able to write poetry during a war that would dramatically transform Spain into a fascist state. He was martyred, then, before he was forced either to make poetry out of the context of war, or, in the words of Wallace Stevens, to evade the “pressure of reality” on the imagination by ignoring the environment around him. Stevens styles the question this way: retreat inward or take on the world’s horrors?

I agree with Blasing to an extent, but she does not go far enough in considering the potential of various informal languages, working-class languages, and the languages used on numerous city streets where rhythm and rhyme are highly regarded for their differences from standard discourses; she also appears to overstress the power of elevated literary language. For instance, hip-hop both confirms and subverts her claim; rule bound, it has extremely rigid forms and does not sound at all like “normal” speech, but it is usually not “high” diction.

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