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'Jay Bernard’s Surge: Archival Interventions in Black British Poetry'

Lawson Welsh, Sarah ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2270-057X (2022) 'Jay Bernard’s Surge: Archival Interventions in Black British Poetry'. Journal for Literary and Intermedial Crossings, 6 (2). c1-c26.

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Abstract

Many of the poems in Jay Bernard’s Surge (2019) originated from Bernard’s 2017 residency at the George Padmore Institute, London, an experience that allowed them to access the Institute’s unique archives on black British history. The collection addresses the social and material in/exclusions experienced by black Britons within some specific historical and socio-cultural contexts, including the 1981 New Cross and 2017 Grenfell fires in London, the victims of both of which were mainly working-class black Britons and ethnic minority subjects. Drawing on theoretical insights such as Derrida’s concepts of ‘hauntology’ and ‘archive fever’, this article argues that the notion of the archive is central to both the aesthetic and political project of Surge. The varied formal and aesthetic experimentation of many of the poems allow Bernard to ask some challenging questions of British society and its relation to its history, as well as the complex tension between public histories and personal accounts. Bernard harnesses the power of poetry to queer or unsettle other kinds of discourse (including orthodox historical narrative) by imaginatively re-embodying hitherto disembodied voices, enabling them to speak in the interstices between private memory and public history in some unique (and strikingly affecting) ways.

Key words

Black British Poetry, History, the Archive, Hauntology, queer

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1010 Poetry
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5813

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