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Airea D. Matthews at Harvard Book Store

June 6, 2023 @ 7:00 pm


June 6, 2023
7:00 pm
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Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States


Harvard Book Store
(617) 661-1515


Bread and Circus: Poems

Bread and Circus

Harvard Book Store welcomes Philadelphia Poet Laureate AIREA D. MATTHEWS for a discussion of her latest collection Bread and Circus.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About Bread and Circus

As a former student of economics, Airea D. Matthews was fascinated and disturbed by 18th-century Scottish economist Adam Smith, and his magnum opus The Wealth of NationsBread and Circus is 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 demonstrates that self-interest fails when people become commodities themselves, and shows how the most vulnerable—including the author and her family—have been impacted by that failure. 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 explores the area where theory and reality meet.

Timely, ambitious, and relevant, Bread and Circus is a brilliant intellectual and artistic contribution to an ongoing conversation about American inequality, for fans of Elizabeth Alexander, Natalie Diaz, Eve Ewing, and Gregory Pardlo.

Praise for Bread and Circus

“When sinking into the work of Airea Matthews within Bread and Circus, ‘gratitude,’ is the word that most eagerly leaps to mind. I am grateful to be witness to a writer dismantling the boundaries of form, shape, and language, while not sacrificing any brilliance on the page. This is a stunning collection of work, which feels both ahead of its time and also abundantly on time.”—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of The Little Devil in America

“From page to unrelenting page in this fierce and brilliant book, Airea Matthews shows us just how high the stakes of poetry should be. If you are not writing to save your life, you are not writing in Airea Matthews’ league. That simple. Her vision is encompassing: what are the systems that subordinate us to their own perpetuation? Her vision is intimate: where, then, are our opportunities for grace? If these beautiful poems are to be believed, that grace is to be found, or rather forged, against all odds, at every turning. That is the scale of the achievement here.”—Linda Gregerson, author of Canopy

“Like all crowning collections in an oeuvre, this book enacts, with tenderness and intelligence, an erudition that matches the capacious love of its ambitions. Formally ambidextrous, teethed with wit and uncompromising dignity, Matthews engages the archive as a breathing document, refusing to let history be done with itself, and thereby accomplishes what I love most about poetry—especially hers—that it lives, is living.”—Ocean Vuong, author of Time is a Mother