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Left of PoetryDepression America and the Formation of Modern Poetics$
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Sarah Ehlers

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469651286

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469651286.001.0001

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Lyric Effects

Lyric Effects

Singing the Futures of Poetry with Genevieve Taggard and Edwin Rolfe

(p.105) Chapter Three Lyric Effects
Left of Poetry

Sarah Ehlers

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter historicizes and theorizes an alternative record of lyric practice that emerged in the Depression but has been obscured. Specifically, the writings of communist poets Genevieve Taggard and Edwin Rolfe allow for an exploration of alternate conceptions of the poetic lyric, where lyric becomes a means to reinvent structural aspects of self in relation to the dialectics of historical change. After demonstrating how Rolfe’s engagements with the romantic lyric reasserted traditional terms of lyrical agency on the historical ground of capitalist crisis, the chapter mobilizes Taggard’s notion of a “lyric effect” to provide a different understanding of the contours of the lyric subject as well as the links between experiments with lyric and forms of collective action. Subsequent sections take up important aspects of Depression poetic discourses: the reception of Rolfe’s poetry in the left press; Taggard’s and Rolfe’s engagements with Romanticism, especially Walt Whitman’s legacy; and Taggard’s interest in music and radio technology. Across these topics, the chapter demonstrates how abstracted versions of the romantic lyric, choral music, and oral recitation become “lyric.” The final section turns to the contemporary reception of Rolfe’s poetry to forward a methodological polemic about the relationship of lyric reading to historical practice.

Keywords:   lyric poetry, lyric subject, music, radio, Genevieve Taggard, Edwin Rolfe, Romanticism

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