Robert Penn Warren, in an introductory note to Brother to Dragons, writes that the poem is not ruled by action, but by its characters’ “inner urgencies ... the urgencies of argument.” He seems to be addressing something about the agency of language. In addressing the intoxicating puissance of argument itself, Warren activates a strange and uneasy space between words and the truths they try to describe. It is by navigating this space that he draws parallels between the voice of Thomas Jefferson — struggling with the unfulfilled legacy of his political writings — and the troubled role of the poet himself.



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