What We Are Reading Today: Poetry; An Introduction

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Updated 15 October 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Poetry; An Introduction

Edited by Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton

Prose Poetry is the first book of its kind—an engaging and authoritative introduction to the history, development, and features of English-language prose poetry, an increasingly important and popular literary form that is still too little understood and appreciated. Poets and scholars Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton introduce prose poetry’s key characteristics, chart its evolution from the 19th century to the present, and discuss many historical and contemporary prose poems that both demonstrate their great diversity around the Anglophone world and show why they represent some of today’s most inventive writing.

A prose poem looks like prose but reads like poetry: It lacks the line breaks of other poetic forms but employs poetic techniques, such as internal rhyme, repetition, and compression. Prose Poetry explains how this form opens new spaces for writers to create riveting works that reshape the resources of prose while redefining the poetic.

Discussing prose poetry’ s precursors, including William Wordsworth and Walt Whitman, and prose poets such as Charles Simic, Russell Edson, Lydia Davis, and Claudia Rankine, the book pays equal attention to male and female prose poets, documenting women’s essential but frequently unacknowledged contributions to the genre.

Revealing how prose poetry tests boundaries and challenges conventions to open up new imaginative vistas, this is an essential book for all readers, students, teachers, and writers of prose poetry.


What We Are Reading Today: Gentlemen Revolutionaries by Tom Cutterham

Updated 20 October 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Gentlemen Revolutionaries by Tom Cutterham

In the years between the Revolutionary War and the drafting of the Constitution, American gentlemen—the merchants, lawyers, planters, and landowners who comprised the independent republic’s elite—worked hard to maintain their positions of power. Gentlemen Revolutionaries shows how their struggles over status, hierarchy, property, and control shaped the ideologies and institutions of the fledgling nation.

Tom Cutterham examines how, facing pressure from populist movements as well as the threat of foreign empires, these gentlemen argued among themselves to find new ways of justifying economic and political inequality in a republican society. At the heart of their ideology was a regime of property and contract rights derived from the norms of international commerce and 18th-century jurisprudence. But these gentlemen were not concerned with property alone. They also sought personal prestige and cultural preeminence. Cutterham describes how, painting the egalitarian freedom of the republic’s “lower sort” as dangerous licentiousness, they constructed a vision of proper social order around their own fantasies of power and justice.

 In pamphlets, speeches, letters, and poetry, they argued that the survival of the republican experiment in the US depended on the leadership of worthy gentlemen and the obedience of everyone else.

Lively and elegantly written, Gentlemen Revolutionaries demonstrates how these elites, far from giving up their attachment to gentility and privilege, recast the new republic in their own image.