Bread and Circus

Airea D. Matthews

08 June 2023
107 pages


Beautifully and gently read by the author, Airea D. Matthews.

'Formally ambidextrous, teethed with wit and uncompromising dignity.' – Ocean Vuong

'Airea D. Matthews, winner of the 2016 Yale Younger Poets Prize, is a fine poet with a command of poetic and speaking voices that serves her well in this audiobook. Her poems tell stories of some parts of her life, including how she has shifted among different American cultures. She uses accents and changes in timbre to portray the various characters she has encountered—or, sometimes, embodied.' - AudioFile

Bread and Circus is a hybrid and palimpsestic memoir-in-verse: it combines poetry, photography and spectral imaging to explore the realities of economic necessity and marginal poverty through a personal lens.

Examining the experience of the US urban Black community from a variety of perspectives, it draws heavily on the author’s archival research on Adam Smith, the eighteenth-century Scottish economist, as well as his magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations.

As the perspective shifts from watchful child, to teacher, mother, writer and citizen, Bread and Circus asks what it is to have survived, indeed to have flourished, and at what cost.

'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.'
'Matthews's writing is bold, innovative and complex.'
'Matthews is virtuosic, frantic, and darkly, very darkly, funny.'