Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 March 2022
Poetry makes nothing happen, except when it does. The sharpness of this barb may derive, strangely, from the fact that poetry keeps pretending to make things happen, keeps availing itself of a didactic, performative, and apostrophic language hailing from a world in which such techniques were for better and worse the very stuff of social reproduction, and where words could kill. Poetry is therefore the literary mode most practically suited to revolution, the literary practice that coincides most clearly with the concerted activity of revolutionaries in the throes of crisis. Resistance, insurgency, and revolution produce their novels after the fact but their poetry, often, right away. Inverting the scales of the systems of genre we inherit from Northrop Frye and Fredric Jameson, poetry’s power turns out to derive from a strange literality.