"Dear friend, where did I go?": Contemporary (British) Poetry and the Politics of Friendship

Sengupta, Shalini "Dear friend, where did I go?": Contemporary (British) Poetry and the Politics of Friendship. In: Brigley, Zoë and Dastidar, Rishi (eds.) The Bloomsbury Companion to Contemporary Poetry in Ireland and the UK. Bloomsbury. (Accepted)

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This essay will examine the theoretical, affective, and political contours of the notion of friendship as it manifests in contemporary experimental poetry. I focus on the intellectually complex, formally experimental, yet little-studied prose-poetry of the British-Indian poet Bhanu Kapil to speculate on how friendship might stand in as a metaphor for dissident relationality and cross-cultural collaboration (Gandhi 2006). I argue that the clearest imagination and elaboration of such coalitionary politics appears in Threads: a creative-critical pamphlet written collaboratively by the poets Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya, and Bhanu Kapil. Threads displays a staggering commitment to the trope of friendship: it is rooted in a participatory epistemology that challenges the white universality of the contemporary lyric, and disrupts familiar knowledge-making practices that have rendered themselves as the “memorised pattern” of a violently skewed modernity (Parmar et al., 2018: 19). The pamphlet gestures towards pluralist and dissident notions of friendship that are grounded in difference rather than commonality, and in shared politics rather than shared identity. I argue that such an ethics, or politics of friendship, brings contemporary (and experimental) poetry closer to a critical communitarian imagination, where the term ‘community’ is in turn invested with the ethical charge to note the abjected bodies situated at the margins of organised sociality. Thereafter, I focus more specifically on Kapil’s prose-poem titled Incubation: A Space for Monsters (2011), which holds the affective and political dynamics of friendship at tight focus, and generates a meditation on interspecies relationship and non-normative forms of affinity with other-than-human lives. I conclude, finally, with a broader consideration of how the politics of friendship might push the contemporary and experimental lyric to attend more productively to intersectional relations of power that are organised along the lines of gender, race, sexuality, class, and culture.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2021 07:55
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 11:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/102385

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