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Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

On-line version ISSN 2309-9070
Print version ISSN 0041-476X


DIALA, Isidore. Preliminary notes on topicality and recent pandemic poetry. Tydskr. letterkd. [online]. 2022, vol.59, n.3, pp.210-227. ISSN 2309-9070.

In this article I appraise the aesthetic and ideological implications of the use of the topical as source material for literary creation, with special focus on poetry. I underscore how the shared knowledge between the writer and the audience influences the craft of poetry and is equally crucial for the reception of a work of art. I link postcolonial writers' fixation on the topical to Edward Said's influential revaluation of Western historiography and privileging of the political in literary scholarship. I demonstrate my thesis primarily by examining selected poems from the anthology World on the Brinks: An Anthology of Covid-19 Pandemic (2020) as an instance of literary responsiveness to a topical global experience. I highlight and appraise the poets' obvious allusions to, replications, appropriations, and interrogations of well documented discourses on the Covid-19 pandemic as a contestation of imperialistic theories and assumptions, and show how the topical and its discourses fundamentally influence the reception of the work of art. Focusing on the poets' examination of the international politics of healthcare, and dispensing of palliatives, I interrogate the politics of the notion of common humanity vaunted in the wake of the pandemic's exposure of the intangibility of territorial borders. In this article I equally reflect on the mechanisms of the survival and transformation of the topical in poetry.

Keywords : coronavirus; Covid-19; poetry; topicality; postcolonialism; discourse; pandemic; World on the Brinks: An Anthology of Covid-19 Pandemic.

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