The University of Iowa

New Collection of Poetry by Workshop Alum Explores the British Poet, John Clare

From The Hydroelectric Press, recently founded by Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program alum Michael Allen Potter, Clare's Empire is the seventh full-length collection of poems from Iowa Writers' Workshop alum, Jordan Smith, the Edward E. Hale Jr., Professor of English at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Clare’s Empire is a fantasia on the life and work of British poet, John Clare, whose biographer called him "the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced."

Of his inspiration, Professor Smith writes: "Although it draws on Clare’s writings and on the available biographies, it makes no pretense to biographical accuracy. Clare’s poems interested me because of the combination of a natural sympathy, sometimes sentimental or conventional but often deeply felt especially for creatures or people on the margins, and a ferocity that arose both from the rigors of the natural world and from a sense of injustice at what humans do so readily to that world and to each other. Clare’s life, a series of almost impossible negotiations between ignorance and knowledge, gift and condescension, poetry and privilege, appetite and refinement, seemed to me to raise issues that have hardly gone away: class, liberty, ecological responsibility, the rights of imagination and the rights of property. The intent of the poems is to present moments from that life at a high pitch of tension and to consider how little has changed."

"No recent poet has come closer to wrapping his imagination around another poet’s world than Jordan Smith has to the 19th-century nature poet, mad, penury-stropped John Clare, whose neglect, survival, loneliness, and crazy grace bestowed on futurity an astonishingly real human presence from the misty past. Smith opens and then widens Clare’s world, and in doing so reveals the breadth of his own generosity. He brings forward Clare’s horizon so that we too can sense the attention, the pluck, the beauty, and the heartbreak—so lost and so like our own."—David Rigsbee

Clare's Empire is published by The Hydroelectric Press, recently launched by Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program Alum, Michael Allen Potter. Hydroelectric titles are available digitally from bookstores around the world, including Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City.

For additional information about Clare's Empire and The Hydroelectric Press, please see "Inaugural Title by Jordan Smith":


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