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This article is taken from PN Review 236, Volume 43 Number 6, July - August 2017.

Western Entitlement Tom Jones
Being a resident of ‘the West’ can present a problem for politically critical poets. The organisation of Western economies around the stimulation of domestic consumption, with more and more luxurious and superfluous commodities falling within its scope, contributes to global injustice. A poet might want to speak against such injustice, but find herself or himself situated, inescapably, as a producer and consumer of one such commodity – poetry. What enables the production of poetry in its various current forms in the Anglophone West is a set of global and local social and economic relations that are themselves the target of the particularly vehement critique of the effect borderless capital has on all aspects of life – aesthetic, affective, erotic, social. Finding a way of speaking through this complicity is a challenge poets confront in different ways. Andrea Brady imagines the dissolution of the social role she occupies (poet-academic) in a world of greater global freedom and happiness ‘because the whole sphere of labour has been radically transformed’.1 Lisa Robertson, acknowledging that ‘our ideas are luxury equipment’,2 produces a writing that is wed to its own desirable insignificance, and its capacity to open up a critical space, a space where ‘we shall be other than the administrators of poverty’.3 Tom Raworth also found a way to speak through this complicity, and I want to look at three of his poems named for the West to see how they do so.

The outline of Raworth’s career has seemed more precarious than luxurious to most readers. But he recognises the luxurious superfluity of choice present ...


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