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This article is taken from PN Review 235, Volume 43 Number 5, May - June 2017.

Valediction Forbidden Mourning
Poetry in the Age of Deportation
David Herd
THE PURPOSE OF this essay is to consider one of the discourses we might address when we think about the formation of contemporary poetry. In contemplating that discourse, let’s call it the discourse of deportation, and in considering how poetry might constitute one form of response to its implications, the essay has three sections: ‘Law,’ ‘Movement’, ‘Language’. The question the essay sets out to consider is how, in the present moment, those three categories might interact; how poetry might inform a response to a discourse that institutes severance.

1. LAW  On 12 May 2016 the uk government’s new Immigration Bill made its final appearance in the House of Commons. Overturning last minute amendments proposed in the House of Lords, the Commons granted Royal Assent and the Bill was confirmed as an act of law, its provisions coming into force in January of this year. Like the Corn Laws of 1815, or the Poor Laws of 1834, or, more recently, say, the introduction of the Poll Tax in 1989–90, the Immigration Act of 2016 is a monumental piece of legislation, the kind by which one day historians of the future will read us. Read in retrospect it will state all too clearly where things have come to.

When people arrive at that retrospective reading, one of the historical tensions they will observe is that, although its formulation and early passage through parliament preceded it, in its later stages the Bill coincided with what the media has called the migrant crisis, but what we ...


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