Documentary Poetics:The Book of the Dead and One Big Self

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Shin, Seunghyun
Poetry , Historical poetry , Social change , Social justice in literature
This research seeks the similarities between the two poems written by separate writers, who were born in separate periods and had different careers: Muriel Rukeyser and C. D. Wright. Although each poet has different techniques and poetic languages in individual works, I want to claim that there is a conversation between the two poets, Rukeyser and Wright, about socio-political issues that include class struggles, totalitarianism, racism, and gender binary, through documenting the stories of the majority of people and depicting them into poetry. This specific documentary form of poems in both works includes the poetic languages intermingled with the eye of camera, photography. Exploring how Rukeyser and Wright forms a conversation to each other through documentary poems that depicts photography in "The Book of the Dead" and "One Big Self", both writers aim at showing abomination and criticism about the socio-political issues; Rukeyser focuses on documenting the afterward of the workers who had silicosis during the Hawk's Nest tragedy in The Book of the Dead, and C. D. Wright articulates the ironic life that she discovers by visiting three prisons. In other words, both works have commonalities: they are all documentary poems that includes the eye of camera; both works tried to encourage socio-political change and voice of people through criticizing issues. Distinguishing these similarities, this research will include the expansion of ideas of Michael Thurston's literary criticism in his article, "Documentary Modernism as Popular Front Poetics: Muriel Rukeyser's "Book of the Dead"," Martha Nussbaum's "Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life", Richard A. Posner's "Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline," and Stephen "Burt's Lightsource, Aperture, Face: C. D. Wright and Photography."