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English Professor Co-Edits Groundbreaking Anthology on Recent Political Poetry

Michael Dowdy’s Latest Book Explores New Directions in American Poetry and Politics

USC Associate English Professor Michael Dowdy has co-edited, along with Claudia Rankine, a seminal anthology entitled American Poets in the 21st Century: Poetics of Social Engagement, published by Wesleyan University Press in Fall 2018. The book features a diverse range of poetry and poetics statements, from Daniel Borzutzy’s critiques of capitalism and the human “performance[s]” it delimits to Cathy Park Hong’s post-avant-garde speculative poems and Bhanu Kapil’s prose poetic treatments of transnational “humanimal[s], “strangers,” and “monsters.”

Here, as Dowdy writes in his thoughtful introduction, are poets as “historians, ethnographers, and, most broadly, activists” in ways that try to reflect and transform contemporary politics. As Michael Davidson praises the book, it offers “a poetics of recognition as well as of disobedience.” Stephanie Burt concurs that “[t]hese poets help us think…about the society we have, the way that identities form within and against it, the attitudes we can examine if we want to know how to stand up, or see more clearly, or fight back."  

The anthology is a splendid companion to Dowdy’s scholarship in Broken Souths: Latina/o Poetic Responses to Neoliberalism and Globalization, which was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2013.