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This review is taken from PN Review 254, Volume 46 Number 6, July - August 2020.

Cover of Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart
David C. WardWhat is to be done?
Carolyn Forche, The Country Between Us (Bloodaxe) £9.95;
Alice Walker, Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart (Weidenfeld and Nicholson) £8.99
As I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, we are not living in even good times, let alone the best of times.  A combination of structural, systemic problems, from inequality to climate change, has hit critical mass just as our political leadership has devolved into feckless dithering, at best, and, at worst, oafish, malignant buffoonery. Whether these are the end times, or even a replay of the 1930s, remains to be determined, but the signs are not good.  I suspect, without knowing for sure, that the current crisis has led to an increase in the number of poems written to address that crisis. Protest poetry, if you will, to protest and resist. Of course, against the noxious populism of a Trump or Bolsanaro, for whom anti-intellectualism is a character trait, a badge of honour and a political stance, writing any poetry – doing anything creative – is resistant.  In America, and now possibly in the rest of the world as well, being anti-elitist means not being against economic privilege but being against thought, knowledge introspection, sensitivity, creativity and even cognition itself.  So to some extent, anything that pushes back against this No Nothingism is to be welcome. In the Age of Trump, creativity is an act of resistance.  However, the limits of cultural assertion as a political stance have to be recognized.  A lesson that has not been learned by Liberals and Progressives since the late 1960s or even the 1930s is the limits of cultural politics, especially a cultural politics now cross-cut and divided by identity politics.  Cultural politics is no substitute for politics ...

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