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Bread and Circus

Bread and Circus

by Airea D. Matthews

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Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

“Discerning and significant.” —Poetry Foundation
“A sharp memoir in verse.” —LitHub

This powerful and timely collection of autobiographical poems from Yale Young Poets Award Winner and Philadelphia’s former Poet Laureate Airea D. Matthews about the economics of class is a brilliant intellectual and artistic contribution to the ongoing conversation about American inequality.

As a former student of economics, Airea D. Matthews was fascinated and disturbed by 18th-century Scottish economist Adam Smith’s magnum opus The Wealth of Nations. Now, she presents a direct challenge to Smith’s theory of the invisible hand, which claims self-interest is the key to optimal economic outcomes. By juxtaposing redacted texts by Smith and the French Marxist Guy Debord with autobiographical prose and poems, Bread and Circus personally offers how self-interest fails when it reduces people to commodity and spectacle.

A layered collection to be read and reread, with poems that range from tragic to humorous, in forms as varied and nuanced as the ideas the book considers, Bread and Circus asks what it is to have survived, indeed to have flourished, and at what cost. “Full of humane wisdom, this powerful volume forces readers to acknowledge systemic inequity” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) and is ideal for fans of Elizabeth Alexander, Natalie Diaz, Eve Ewing, and Gregory Pardlo.


ISBN-13: 9781668011461
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: May 21, 2024
Pages: 112
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