© 2019

Poetry and Work

Work in Modern and Contemporary Anglophone Poetry

  • Jo Lindsay Walton
  • Ed Luker

Part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics book series (MPCC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xix
  2. Jo Lindsay Walton, Ed Luker
    Pages 1-68
  3. Essays

  4. Reflections

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 353-353
    2. Catherine Wagner, with David Boeving, Sylvia Chan, Alex Cintron, Emily Corwin, Rachel Galvin et al.
      Pages 355-369
    3. Tyrone Williams
      Pages 371-373
    4. Amber DiPietra
      Pages 375-380
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 381-396

About this book


Poetry and Work offers a timely and much-needed re-examination of the relationship between work and poetry. The volume questions how lines are drawn between work and non-work, how social, political, and technological upheavals transform the nature of work, how work appears or hides within poetry, and asks if poetry is work, or play, or something else completely. The book interrogates whether poetry and avant-garde and experimental writing can provide models for work that is less alienated and more free. In this major new collection, sixteen scholars and poets draw on a lively array of theory and philosophy, archival research, fresh readings, and personal reflection in order to consider work and poetry: the work in poetry and the work of poetry. Individual chapters address issues such as the many professions, occupations, and tasks of poets beyond and around writing; poetry’s special relationship with ‘craft’; work's relationship with gender, class, race, disability, and sexuality; how work gets recognised or rendered invisible in aesthetic production and beyond; the work of poetry and the work of political activism and organising; and the notion of poetry itself as a space where work and play can blur, and where postwork imaginaries can be nurtured and explored.


work labor political economy economic humanities work in poetry labor in poetry Marxist literary criticism New Economic Criticism avant-garde poetry

Editors and affiliations

  • Jo Lindsay Walton
    • 1
  • Ed Luker
    • 2
  1. 1.Bath Spa UniversityBathUK
  2. 2.University of SurreyGuildfordUK

About the editors

Jo Lindsay Walton is Research Fellow in Critical and Cultural Theory at the Sussex Humanities Lab, UK. His main research interests are modern and contemporary poetry, speculative fiction, and political economy.

Ed Luker is Associate Lecturer at University of Surrey, UK. He completed his PhD at Northumbria University on the poetry of J.H. Prynne in relation to British and North American poetry. As a poet his work includes Peak Return (2014), Headlost (2014), The Sea Together (2016), Compound Out The Fractured World (2017), and Heavy Waters (2019). 

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Poetry and Work
  • Book Subtitle Work in Modern and Contemporary Anglophone Poetry
  • Editors Jo Lindsay Walton
    Ed Luker
  • Series Title Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics
  • Series Abbreviated Title Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Literature, Cultural and Media Studies Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-26124-5
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-26127-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-26125-2
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIX, 396
  • Number of Illustrations 3 b/w illustrations, 2 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Poetry and Poetics
    Literary Theory
    Contemporary Literature
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“This volume represents an outstanding contribution to current debates in contemporary poetry. It examines the poetry of work and the work that poetry does in a highly original, theoretically sophisticated and analytically nuanced manner. The essays engage with work and labour across a range of poetries and constituencies and provide a timely address to the place of work in the context of a post-work future and the privatised digital market. It is likely to be seen as a major, paradigm-shifting work in relation to contemporary poetry.” (Robert Hampson, Professor of English, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK, and author of Seaport (2008) 

“To think poetry and work together is to question poetry’s standing both against and as work, to hypothesize what poetry itself might be in the world of those who wish to end all we have hitherto known as labor. The essays in this collection engage fearlessly with the permutations, consequences and destructive capacities of this questioning. They represent a new generation – perhaps, we hope, the last generation – of those who will even speak the words poetry and work as if they were commensurate. That the book speaks to such a hope is the highest possible form of recommendation.” (Anne Boyer, Associate Professor, Kansas City Art Institute, USA, and author of A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (2018) and Garments Against Women (2015))


“In a time when there is virtually no subjectivity that hasn’t found its ‘voice,’ no ‘topic’ that hasn’t been duly treated, no ‘issue’ that’s not been confronted, the concept and reality of work in poetics remains elusive at best; at worst, a near censorship of it reigns. But upon close examination, it becomes clear that overtly flushing out the phenomenon of work from aesthetic acts, embarrasses aesthetic discourse in general. Idealism collapses unto materialism. And it is from this humbling and renewed state of awareness that we must begin. In this riveting new collection, the three intertwined aspects of work – the symbolic, the productive, and the distributive – are explored thoroughly. The essays themselves stand as authentic poetic acts. Cultural archeologists of the future might well regard this volume as an essential guide to the ever expanding horizon of that strange human productive activity we call poetry.” (Rodrigo Toscano, author of Collapsible Poetics Theater (2008) and Explosion Rocks Springfield (2016))


“This collection of essays rigorously explores how capitalism, reproductive labor, the falling rate of profit, and acts of working are represented in post-war poetry. Poets are unacknowledged day job workers of the cultural production world. A significant part of post-war poetry is written during time stolen on the day job or late in the evening, after a long shift. As such, poems are full of theoretical possibilities for understanding how work has shaped the aesthetics, the affinities, and the utopian claims of contemporary literature. This book stands as a committed investigation into an array of affinities between the ordinary grounding of work and its utopian claims.” (Juliana Spahr, Professor of English, Mills college, USA, and author of That Winter the Wolf Came (2015))