Event—Public Programming

Two Books on Poetry and Geopolitics


Listen to an audio recording of this program.

“Poetry makes nothing happen,” W.H. Auden famously wrote. But is that really true? Poetry has a long-standing role in the world of politics. What happens when poets write about war and other world events? Or when poets take a role in affairs of the state—or when the state supports the writing of poetry?

Harris Feinsod and Rachel Galvin have written new books on the fates of poets and their poems from the wars of the 1930s and 1940s through the Cold War.

Feinsod examines the state-sponsored institutions and countercultural networks that sustained the poetry of the Americas from Nelson Rockefeller’s Office of the Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs to the mid-1960s avant-garde scene in Mexico City. He connects works by authors as varied as Elizabeth Bishop, Jorge Luis Borges, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, and Charles Olson. Galvin investigates the work of civilian poets who wrote memorably about the Spanish Civil War and World War II, even though they did not feel they had authority to write about what they hadn’t experienced firsthand. Surprisingly, poets such as W. H. Auden, Marianne Moore, Raymond Queneau, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, and César Vallejo used classical rhetoric and journalistic strategies as a way to question the objectivity and facticity of war reporting.

Join Harris Feinsod and Rachel Galvin as they discuss how poetry intertwined with the geopolitics of the modernist era, moderated by the Newberry's director of Chicago Studies, Liesl Olson.

Download a PDF flyer for this event to post and distribute, and explore related Newberry materials with our Collection Quick Guide on Poetry and Geopolitics.

Harris Feinsod is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Northwestern University. His essays on modern and contemporary poetry, maritime cultural history, and photography appear in publications such as American Literary History, Iowa Review, n+1, and The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics: Fourth Edition, for which he served as assistant editor. Together with Rachel Galvin, he translated the complete early poetry of Oliverio Girondo, forthcoming from Open Letter Books.

Rachel Galvin is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is a scholar, poet, and translator. Her essays appear in Boston Review, Comparative Literature Studies, ELH, Jacket 2, Los Angeles Review of Books, MLN, and Modernism/modernity.

After the talk, our speakers will sign copies of their books, which will be available for purchase.

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