Activist Poetics

BookActivist Poetics

Activist Poetics

Anarchy in the Avon Valley


May 31st, 2010



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John Kinsella is known internationally as the acclaimed author of more than thirty books of poetry and prose, but in tandem with - and often directly through - his creative and critical work, Kinsella is also a prominent activist. In this important collection of essays the vegan anarchist pacifist poet claims that poetry can act as a vital form of resistance to a variety of social and ethical ills, in particular ecological damage and abuse. Kinsella builds on his earlier notion of 'linguistic disobedience' evolving out of civil disobedience, and critiques the figurative qualities of his poems in a context of resistance. The book includes explorations of anarchism, veganism, pacifism, and ecological poetics. For Kinsella all poetry is political and can be a call to action.

'John Kinsella delights in disturbance. (He) writes like an Australian storm at full blow.'
The Observer

'John Kinsella's Activist Poetics argues that poetry can act as a form of resistance to social and ethical ills, especially ecological damage and abuse, by provoking responses. The book is not so much of a manifesto as an apologia, an attempt to show the ways in which he has seen and written about the injustices and disturbances in that area. His approach to issues such as immigration, refugees, animal rights, zoos, forest preservation, land erosion, telecommunication masts, and so on, is applicable elsewhere and that is what makes his 'linguistic disobedience', energetic involvement and ability to look, bear witness and become involved, so striking.'
Tears in the Fence

'Despite the utopian leftism that pervades Activist Poetics, it is fair to say that the book succeeds more as a stirring work of literary criticism than as a defense of revolutionary politics. [Kinsella] writes powerfully about the ability of poetry to “motivate investigation,” provoke “a suggestive disturbance,” and provide “forms of affirmation and resistance.”'
Los Angeles Review of Books

'A literary work’s originality can be measured by the difficulty we have in characterising it. This work is especially difficult to characterise. While Activist Poetics has been published by a university press, it avoids the usual procedures of a scholarly work: it is intensely subjective; sometimes prolix, sometimes casual in tone; and it can be funny... While Activist Poetics may be ‘unscholarly’ in the traditional sense, not least because it is written from a position of ‘interest’, it is far from anti-intellectual. Indeed, the book has an extraordinary intellectual breadth, with subjects ranging from animal rights and GM crops, to literary theory and local history.'
David McCooey, Australian Book Review

Author Information

Niall Lucy (1956-2014) was a Research Fellow with the Australia Research Institute and formerly Head of the School of Arts at Murdoch University, where he taught for many years in the Literature, Philosophy and Communication Studies programs. John Kinsella is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Jam Tree Gully (2012), for which he won the Australian Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry, and Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (2016). His most recent critical book is Polysituatedness (Manchester University Press, 2017). He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
List of Illustrations
1. Commercial, Diplomatic and Scientific Travellers
2 Passionate Pilgrims
3. Audubon and Catlin: Artists of the American Wilderness
4. Herman Melville: Redburn
5. Nathaniel Hawthorne, American Consul
6. Social Observers
7. African American Campaigners, Abolition and Evangelism
8. Lecturers and Reformers
9. The American Civil War
10. Overviews of the City and Public Events
Further Reading