Since before the Declaration of Independence, poets have shaped a collective imagination of nationhood at critical points in American history. In The Patriot Poets Stephen Adams considers major odes and "progress poems" that address America's destiny in the face of slavery, the Civil War, imperialist expansion, immigration, repeated financial boom and bust, gross social inequality, racial and gendered oppression, and the rise of the present-day corporate oligarchy. Adams elucidates how poets in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries addressed political crises from a position of patriotic idealism and how military interventions overseas in Cuba and in the Philippines increasingly caused poets to question the actions of those in power. He traces competing loyalties through major works of writers at both extremes of the political spectrum, from the radical Republican versus Confederate voices of the Civil War, through New Deal liberalism versus the lost-cause propaganda of the defeated South and the conservative isolationism of the 1930s, and after the Second World War, the renewed hope of Black leaders and the existential alienation of Allen Ginsberg's counter-culture. Blazing a new path of critical discourse, Adams questions why America, of all nations, has appeared to rule out politics as a subject fit for poetry. His answer draws connections between familiar touchstones of American poetry and significant yet neglected writing by Philip Freneau, Sidney Lanier, Archibald MacLeish, William Vaughn Moody, Muriel Rukeyser, Genevieve Taggard, Allen Tate, Henry Timrod, Melvin B. Tolson, and others. An illuminating and pioneering work, The Patriot Poets provides a rich understanding of the ambivalent relationship American poets and poems have had with nation, genre, and the public.
Stephen J. Adams is professor of American and modernist literature at the University of Western Ontario and co-editor of The Ezra Pound Encyclopedia. He is the author of R. Murray Schafer and Poetic Designs: An Introduction to Meters, Verse Forms, and Figures of Speech
"Sure to spark a new wave of critical discussion of American poetry and archival discoveries, Stephen Adams's The Patriot Poets is an ambitious, wide-ranging study of an important yet almost entirely neglected dimension in American literary history: the ode." Thomas Travisano, Hartwick College
"In The Patriot Poets, Adams (Univ. of Western Ontario) presents a timely, sweeping study of American odes and progress poems, and how poets have engaged the republic in these often-overlooked genres." Choice