Published on Academy of American Poets (


9 Enigmatic Quatrains / 3 Stealth Couplets


                                   the feminine subject &/or 
                                   dispossession &/or
                                   the posthuman &/or
                                   are(n’t) we all postracial yet? &/or

                                   the lure of technocracy &/or
                                   freedom to fail &/or
                                   an imaginary racism &/or
                                   the fanaticism of the apocalypse &/or

                                   a biography of ordinary man &/or
                                   the feminine subject &/or
                                   general theory of victims &/or
                                   intellectuals and power &/or

                                   the insurrection of the victim &/or
                                   classification struggles



                                   clint eastwood’s america &/or
                                   spike lee’s america &/or
                                   alfred hitchcock’s america &/or
                                   steven spielberg’s america &/or

                                   martin scorsese’s america &/or
                                   foucault now &/or
                                   derrida now &/or
                                   rancière now &/or

                                   nancy now &/or
                                   xenofeminism &/or
                                   narcocapitalism &/or
                                   why philosophize? &/or

                                   playstation dream world &/or
                                   persons and things



                                   human dignity &/or
                                   dream notes &/or
                                   abstracts and brief chronicles of the time &/or
                                   the feminine subject &/or

                                   old women in bloom &/or
                                   the art of freedom &/or
                                   eve escapes &/or
                                   zero’s neighbor &/or

                                   philosophical introductions &/or
                                   five approaches to communicative reason &/or
                                   the triumph of religion &/or
                                   networks of outrage and hope &/or

                                   search engine society &/or
                                   a history of silence


Copyright © 2021 by Joan Retallack. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The ‘&/or’ sonnets are derived from the 2018, Polity Books catalogue of Literary and Cultural Studies: New and Recent Titles. // There are found poems and there are serendipitous collaborations. The ‘&/or’ sonnets are a bit of both. When the Polity Catalogue turned up in my mailbox, I was struck by syntactic similarities from one title to another. There was something oddly, delightfully, playful about all those declarative phrases promising so much, so baldly competing with one another. I decided to compose an experiment, that turned out to be the 14 line spates of repartee among selected titles. // The sonnet form was probably an attempt at enough formal decorum to retain the force of ‘polite’ in ‘polities,’ despite the annoyingly persistent ‘&/or’ interventions.”
Joan Retallack


Joan Retallack

Joan Retallack is a poet and essayist. The author of BOSCH’D: Fables, Moral Tales & other Awkward Constructions (Litmus Press, 2020), she is the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Professor Emerita of Humanities at Bard College.

Date Published: 2021-08-30

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