Review of Poetry Wars: Verse and Politics in the American Revolution and Early Republic

Within the first twenty pages of Poetry Wars: Verse and Politics in the American Revolution and Early Republic, Colin Wells makes a bold and far-reaching claim. He asserts that the aim of his text is to demonstrate the importance of political poetry as it is woven throughout the story of the American Revolution and the consequent construction of the federal government and initial party systems. Though studies of America’s conception and the Revolutionary War are ubiquitous, Poetry Wars undertakes the unique task of organizing the “dynamic story of how political identities were formed amid shifting rhetorical strategies in response to rival arguments and unfolding events” (18). Though the poetic form is too often ignored, Wells argues for the rhetorical importance of poetry which was widely circulated throughout the print public sphere of the late eighteenth century. While taking on a monumental task in addressing a rather vast and substantial historical window, Wells does excellent work not only in his primary claim, but also in revealing a space where women and minorities were given room to speak within a cultural creation dominated by a primarily white patriarchy.

Download the complete review

Poetry Wars: Verse and Politics in the American Revolution and Early Republic. By Colin Wells. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2017. 342 pp. $55.00 ISBN 9780-8122-4965-1

About the author

Jamie Crosswhite is a doctoral candidate within the English department at the University of Texas, San Antonio. Her current research is in feminist visual rhetoric and the environment, rhetorical narratives, and critical regionalism. Recent publications include a chapter in the upcoming MLA volume, Approaches to Teaching the Works of Karen Tei Yamashita, and a short analysis of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.