Anti-Capitalist Poetry

By Otremba, Paul | Tikkun, May/June 2005 | Go to article overview

Anti-Capitalist Poetry


Otremba, Paul, Tikkun


Anti-Capitalist Poetry The Displaced of Capital, by Anne Winters. University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Almost twenty years after the publication of her first book of poems, The Key to the City, Anne Winters's second collection, The Displaced of Capital, continues her commitment to a poetry that is as artistically rigorous as it is politically progressive.

As the book's title suggests, most of the poems in The Displaced of Capital take on political subjects, viewed through the author's own heterodox version of Marxism. Situated in Winters's hometown of New York, Manhattan is portrayed as the crisis-ridden center of a market-driven culture collapsing in on itself, as those on the fringes have moved within the city's confines. As the speaker of the title poem (which first appeared in TIKKUN) observes, "the displaced of capital have come to the capital."

The poems in this new collection are global in their concerns. While the poet stays rooted in New York, walking down Broadway she can see signs of the entirety of empire in signs like, "O'Donnell's, Beirut Cafe, Yonah's Ktush." These names do not signify sites of resistance to a homogenous American culture. Rather, they represent the establishment and consumption of global Otherness by America. Or, to quote the above speaker again: because I'm here in New York the paper tells me of here:/of the Nicaraguans, the shortage of journeyman-jobs, the ethnic/streetcorner job-markets where men wait all day but more likely the women/find work, in the new hotels or in the needle trades.

Sensitivity to social justice might be a motivation for Winters's poems, but it is not the only one. Through the immediacy of images, an improvised-sounding, rigorous musicality, and far-ranging sentences, The Displaced of Capital conveys complexities of feeling and thought while avoiding didacticism and ideologically motivated polemics. The collection opens with "The Mill-Race." Beneath the nightmarish omen of a "July thunderstorm unfurling over Manhattan," the speaker describes people on a bus coming home from work:

The striking music of these severe yet appealingly plangent lines, the concentration on bringing the experience emotionally into focus, and the naturalness with which the metaphor of the water-mill arises, indicate a formal excellence and imaginative richness that place Winters' work at the forefront of today's poetry. …

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