'An interrupter, a collective': Sean Bonney's Lyric Outrage

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This article analyses the way that politically engaged lyric negotiates two opposing impulses—the expression of individual outrage, and a desire for collective praxis—through a reading of the contemporary British poet Sean Bonney’s ‘translations’ of Baudelaire and Rimbaud. First I situate Bonney within a tradition of radical avant-garde poetics for which poetry’s refusal of the instrumentalisation of language is crucial to its political content; what is often dismissed as ‘elitism’ is in fact the its emancipatory democratic moment. I then chart shifts in Bonney’s poetics alongside shifts in British politics over the last decade: the collective attains increasing importance in the wake of the financial crisis and the Conservative-led government, and in place of Baudelaire the observer of high capitalism Bonney turns to Rimbaud the poetic communard. Finally I claim that Bonney’s articulation of political collectivity takes place in language, as a synaesthetic dérèglement de tous les sens.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEtudes Britanniques Contemporaines
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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