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Bread and Circus by Airea D. Matthews
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Bread and Circus

$10.49

Narrator Airea D. Matthews

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Length 1 hour 47 minutes
Language English
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Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

“Discerning and significant.” —Poetry Foundation
“A sharp memoir in verse.” —LitHub

This powerful and timely collection of autobiographical poems from Yale Young Poets Award Winner and Philadelphia’s former Poet Laureate Airea D. Matthews about the economics of class is a brilliant intellectual and artistic contribution to the ongoing conversation about American inequality.

As a former student of economics, Airea D. Matthews was fascinated and disturbed by 18th-century Scottish economist Adam Smith’s magnum opus The Wealth of Nations. Now, she presents a direct challenge to Smith’s theory of the invisible hand, which claims self-interest is the key to optimal economic outcomes. By juxtaposing redacted texts by Smith and the French Marxist Guy Debord with autobiographical prose and poems, Bread and Circus personally offers how self-interest fails when it reduces people to commodity and spectacle.

A layered collection to be read and reread, with poems that range from tragic to humorous, in forms as varied and nuanced as the ideas the book considers, Bread and Circus asks what it is to have survived, indeed to have flourished, and at what cost. “Full of humane wisdom, this powerful volume forces readers to acknowledge systemic inequity” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) and is ideal for fans of Elizabeth Alexander, Natalie Diaz, Eve Ewing, and Gregory Pardlo.

Airea D. Matthews was Philadelphia’s 2022–2023 poet laureate. Her first collection of poems is the critically acclaimed Simulacra, which won the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Poetry, The New York TimesGulf CoastVQR, Best American PoetsAmerican PoetLitHub, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. Matthews holds a BA in economics from the University of Pennsylvania as well as an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program and an MPA from the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, both at the University of Michigan. A Pew fellow, she is an associate professor and codirector of the creative writing program at Bryn Mawr College.

Airea D. Matthews was Philadelphia’s 2022–2023 poet laureate. Her first collection of poems is the critically acclaimed Simulacra, which won the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Poetry, The New York TimesGulf CoastVQR, Best American PoetsAmerican PoetLitHub, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. Matthews holds a BA in economics from the University of Pennsylvania as well as an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program and an MPA from the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, both at the University of Michigan. A Pew fellow, she is an associate professor and codirector of the creative writing program at Bryn Mawr College.

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