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Bread and Circus
Table of Contents
About The Book
A powerful collection of autobiographical poems from Yale Young Poets Award Winner and Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate Airea D. Matthews about the economics of class and its failures for those rendered invisible by it.
As a former student of economics, Airea D. Matthews was fascinated and disturbed by 18th-century Scottish economist Adam Smith, and his magnum opus The Wealth of Nations. Bread and Circus is a direct challenge to Smith’s theory of the invisible hand, which claims self-interest is the key to optimal economic outcomes. By juxtaposing redacted texts by Smith and the French Marxist Guy Debord with autobiographical prose and poems, Bread and Circus demonstrates that self-interest fails when people become commodities themselves, and shows how the most vulnerable—including the author and her family—have been impacted by that failure. A layered collection to be read and reread, with poems that range from tragic to humorous, in forms as varied and nuanced as the ideas the book considers, Bread and Circus explores the area where theory and reality meet.
Timely, ambitious, and relevant, Bread and Circus is a brilliant intellectual and artistic contribution to an ongoing conversation about American inequality, for fans of Elizabeth Alexander, Natalie Diaz, Eve Ewing, and Gregory Pardlo.
- Publisher: Scribner (May 30, 2023)
- Length: 112 pages
- ISBN13: 9781668011454
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Raves and Reviews
"When sinking into the work of Airea Matthews within Bread and Circus, 'gratitude,' is the word that most eagerly leaps to mind. I am grateful to be witness to a writer dismantling the boundaries of form, shape, and language, while not sacrificing any brilliance on the page. This is a stunning collection of work, which feels both ahead of its time and also abundantly on time."—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of The Little Devil in America
"Like all crowning collections in an oeuvre, this book enacts, with tenderness and intelligence, an erudition that matches the capacious love of its ambitions. Formally ambidextrous, teethed with wit and uncompromising dignity, Matthews engages the archive as a breathing document, refusing to let history be done with itself, and thereby accomplishes what I love most about poetry—especially hers—that it lives, is living."—Ocean Vuong, author of Time is a Mother
"Roman poet Juvenal criticized a public distracted with free wheat and mindless entertainment. Toni Morrison said the point of racism is to keep us distracted from fully living our lives. With the genius and ferocity of mother love, Airea Matthews’s Bread and Circus shreds our expectations of what poems can be and do while clearing the air of the illusions that cloud our understanding of past, present, self and other. Lift the cover and breathe in the clarity concentrated on these pages."—Gregory Pardlo, author of Digest
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Book Cover Image (jpg): Bread and Circus
Author Photo (jpg): Airea D. Matthews
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