'Enemy Lines': Contemporary Poetry and Returns to 18th Century Notions of Enclosure



This article demonstrates the potentials afforded to contemporary poetry by returning to 18th century notions of spatial enclosure. Referring to works by Maggie O’Sullivan and Susan Howe notions of enclosure, commons and the Picturesque are revealed as valuable resources for poetries critiquing both the place of the woman in the neo-liberal city and ideas of national borders. Through staged returns to these concepts O’Sullivan and Howe are able to proceed with deeply critical excavations of the intellectual genealogy underlying the contemporary world. A re-interpretation of enclosure empowers these poets to express contrasting critiques of capital and nation, gender and history. By pursuing a cartography of notions of enclosure in States of Emergency and Articulation of Sound Forms in Time the potential is unearthed for a contemporary poetics that is politically engaged through a return to the past. Opposing the exclusion of women from the urban zone and the suppression of Native American voices in the history of the United States these two texts perform contrasting politicisations of our poetic and intellectual inheritance at the level of imagery, form and style. Drawn from either side of the Atlantic these works demonstrate the need to re-engage with these inheritances if we are to call into question, and move beyond, the divisive hegemonies of the contemporary world. Furthermore, the texts demonstrate that poetry can be used to recuperate cultural concepts for progressive politics.


How to Cite: Williams, D. (2017) “'Enemy Lines': Contemporary Poetry and Returns to 18th Century Notions of Enclosure”, Dandelion: Postgraduate Arts Journal and Research Network. 8(1). doi: