Poems of the American Empire argues that careful attention to a particular strain of twentieth-century lyric poetry yields a counter-history of American global power. The period that Phillis covers—from Ezra Pound’s A Draft of XXX Cantos in 1930 to Cathy Park Hong’s Engine Empire in 2012—roughly matches what some consider the ascent and decline of the American empire. The diverse poems that appear in this book are united by their use of epic forms in the lyric poem, a combination that violates a fundamental framework of both genres’ relationship to time.
This book makes a groundbreaking intervention by insisting that lyric time is key to understanding the genre. These poems demonstrate the lyric form’s ability to represent the totality of history, making American imperial power visible in its fullness. Neither strictly an empty celebration of American exceptionalism nor a catalog of atrocities, Poems of the American Empire
allows us to see both.