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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.

Airea D. Matthews’ debut Simulacra won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. She received a 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a 2020 Pew Fellowship and was Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate in 2022. Matthews holds a BA in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania as well as an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program and an MPA from the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, both at the University of Michigan. She is an associate professor at Bryn Mawr College where she co-directs the poetry program.

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