A fragment of a poem by W. H. Auden warns us not to mistake poetry for political action. ‘For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives | In the valley of its making’. In this class we will discuss the political stakes of what happens in poetic language. One concern for us will be the new and strange ways of writing that appear on the scene in Europe around the turn of the century and that go by the name of modernism. We’ll think about the clash of poetics and politics in debates over the new writing and its many forms. Not only poetry, but also the poetics of politically-engaged theatre will be a point of focus for us. We’ll engage with a wide spectrum of writing: from literary theory associated with Marxism to later convergences of aesthetic and political radicalism in the Black Arts Movement and beyond.