Bird-Song by Everyone, for Everyone: Poetry, Work, and Play in J. H. Prynne’s Prose

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


In a series of prose works, J. H. Prynne sketches an alternative political economy of poetic production—one that challenges strict divisions between work and play, and between the worlds of adult and child. In the lecture “The Poet’s Imaginary,” Prynne mobilizes the “surprise” that can be found in a genuinely new poem to break the apparently eternal present of a day’s waged labour. In this chapter, Jeschke connects these moments of surprise with an off-hand remark on bird-song found in Prynne’s “Mental Ears and Poetic Work,” to trace a gesture towards a reconciliation of work and play. Decidedly this must remain a mere gesture to avoid what Jacob Taubes calls “the bourgeois apotheosis of culture.” However, insofar as a conceptualization of poetry through work and play is used minutely and unsteadily as a critical vocabulary, a form of movement rather than a settled achievement, such a conceptualization can contribute to a historical economics of speech. That is, it can contribute to the dissection of who gets to speak, who gets to sing, who is heard, and who is silenced as part of always specific capitalist constellations.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Jeschke
    • 1
  1. 1.CAU KielKielGermany

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