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Aftermath brings together several long poems concerned with masculinity, authority, and the politics of art, alongside a selection of shorter poems curious about science, memory and new technology, written over a twenty year period. Many of the poems search out traces of narrative and emotion in the often anonymous and neutralised languages of contemporary culture. This is an investigation prompted by the restricted civic space and cultural possibilities of a conservative Britain. Earlier poems were written in the shadows of a conservative roll-back of many progressive government programmes and a rapid increase in poverty and decline in education and health. This was also a time when poststructuralism persuasively mocked humanist and transcendental ideas about language. Was there any truth or hope in language? This is a poetry with arguments, a conviction, challenged at every turn, that observation and communication are still possible for the stretched language of poems. Included are two recent sequences, ‘Tell Me About It’ and ‘Next Gen,’ in which the selves called into being by New Labour and New Technology aspire to their own lyric sublime. The concluding poem, A Dialogue on Anachronism, looks back on the past two decades with some wonder and puzzlement.
‘The waltz of the intellect among the words opens onto a world of misplaced politics in the aftermath of desire’s collision with history. Peter Middleton’s muted songs spook this tale of the trying.’ —Charles Bernstein
‘This is a learnéd group of texts in dispute with itself, that questions itself and its reader as part of its production. Peter Middleton is an engaged academic, but in public he, as this collection demonstrates, is a considerable poet with direct responses to scientific and ecological practices, uses language as a material, works on an interface between what, on the one hand, he once named the male inward gaze and, on the other, its vulnerable surface. His interface shifts from narrative to cusping disquiet, from crafted conversation to directed poetry.’ —Allen Fisher
‘This Middleton poem is formally innovative; it does not spill, every line has elastic on it and snaps back.’ —Ira Lightman, Pages