Poetry & Commons

BookPoetry & Commons

Poetry & Commons

Postwar and Romantic Lyric in Times of Enclosure

Poetry &..., 13


May 13th, 2022

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The commons and enclosure are among the most vital ways of thinking about poetry today, posing urgent ecological and political questions about land and resource ownership and use. Poetry & Commons is the first study to read postwar and contemporary poetry through this lens, by putting it in dialogue with the Romantic experience of agrarian dispossession. Employing an innovative transhistorical structure, the book demonstrates how radical Anglophone poetries since 1960 have returned to the 'enclosure of the commons' in response to political and ecological crises. It identifies a 'commons turn' in contemporary lyric that contests the new enclosures of globalized capital and resource extraction. In lucid close readings of a rich field of experimental poetries associated with the 'British Poetry Revival', as well as from Canada and the United States, it analyses a landscape poetics of enclosure in relationship with Romantic verse. Canonical Romantic poetry by Wordsworth and Clare is understood through the fine-grain textures of the period’s vernacular and radical verse and discourse around enclosure, which the book demonstrates contain the seeds of neoliberal political economy. Engaging with the work of Anne-Lise François and Anna Tsing, Poetry & Commons theorizes commoning as marking out subsistence 'rhythms of resource', which articulate plural, irregular, and tentative relations between human and nonhuman lifeworlds.

'This is an excellent, highly original, and necessary study of poetry and radical thought. In tracing both the persistence (and permutations) of the concept of the commons alongside a probing reading of lyric poetry in the Romantic and British and North American postwar periods, Poetry & Commons makes anew the case for thinking about lyric in the neoliberal era.'
- David Farrier, Professor of Literature and the Environment, University of Edinburgh

'Daniel Eltringham’s brilliant Poetry & Commons traces the transhistorical relationship between a poetry of the common word and the continuing resistance to ongoing practices of enclosure, dispossession, and extraction. Few critics have so precisely articulated the conceptual range with which the commons is necessarily entangled: from a romantic-era politics of enclosure to contemporary ecopoetics; from land rights and the right to roam to the interdependencies of "earth’s human and nonhuman tenants"; and, ultimately, from the origins to the outputs of the Anthropocene. Throughout, Eltringham has his finger on the pulse of the poet’s temporally open practice of "commoning historical languages of resistance". Poetry & Commons constitutes a major expansion of our understanding of the literary commons.'
- Stephen Collis, Professor of English, Simon Fraser University

‘The lines of poetic language that Daniel Eltringham traces here are invaluable for ecopoetics and our understanding of the poetries and politics of the land, particularly the somewhat neglected area of agrarianism. As they follow these hard-won connections, scholars, literary critics, poet-practitioners, environmentalists and students in all these areas will emerge with a refreshed vision of Romantic and twentieth-century British and American poetry in the modernist tradition. Eltringham opens up our concept of the commons, reading back and forwards in time and demonstrating how certain poetic formal and linguistic inventions are connected to transgressive, anti-capitalist radicalism in relation to the human and more-than-human worlds. There is nothing naïve about this book however. Eltringham’s passionate belief in poetry is hedged about with his impressively researched knowledge of the abuses of land rights, and land itself. His reading of enclosure, the dismissal of peasantry and contemporary agribusiness is rooted in cultural history, appropriately so, since one of his many convincing arguments hinges on how the poets he admires understand the importance of archival delvings and subsequent recyclings of the commons of language. From such positionings they, and we, are better able to understand and revalue both the resilience and the precarity of our lyrics and our landscapes. To conclude, an inspiring and scholarly volume, packed with brilliant readings of poets you thought you knew, and poets you ought to know, a book that inspires us to invest anew in traditions of resistance in relation to place and politics.’

- Harriet Tarlo, Professor of Ecopoetry and Poetics, Sheffield Hallam University

Author Information

Daniel Eltringham is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of English at the University of Sheffield.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures9
Introduction: Rhythms of Resource13
1 Poetics of Commoning: Radical Agrarian Scarcity and Abundance39
2 Poetics of Enclosure: Open Fields to Radical Landscapes71
3 Clearing the Commons: Agrochemical Enclosure and Lyric Dispossession117
4 Care/Work: Properties of the Pastoral Commons157
5 Ghost Escapes: Common Returns and Militant Resistance191
Conclusion: Against Resource?219