“A copia of words”: On Andrea Brady

Andrea Brady Symposium: 13th December, 2014
Generously supported by the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre at Birkbeck, University of London

Venue: Keynes Library, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD
Keynote speaker: Professor Carol Watts (Birkbeck)
The symposium will be followed by a reading by Andrea Brady.

Conference Abstract
In one of the prose sections of her 2012 book, Mutability, Andrea Brady notes her surprise when her first child, Ayla’s milk teeth just ‘happened’, arriving along with ‘a copia of words’. Ayla’s new, inventive and exploratory babblings tumble out with abundance or ‘plenty’ as the Latin copia has it. Brady is now surrounded by Ayla’s restlessly evolving reach for words. In his 1512 De copia, Erasmus describes copia as a form of rhetorical exercise in eloquence, a playful gymnastics producing linguistic plenitude, ‘surging along like a golden river, with thoughts and words pouring out in rich abundance.’ The word copia – plenty, from copis, well supplied – also contains within itself opis, meaning wealth, power or resources. In a rich and diverse poetic career, Brady has produced her own ‘copia of words’, not as mechanical exercise, but as a rhetorically and stylistically challenging body of chapbooks, collections and long sequences characterised by restless interrogation of wealth, excess, power and resources; the shadowy opis immanent in the language of capitalism and abundance.

Always inventive, always interrogative, Brady’s poems come in a variety of forms, but all of her work tries to capture that poetic space which, as she puts it in a piece on Mutability, holds ‘against the failed and limited reality which the bounty of language constitutes.’ Like the metaphysical poets whose words dapple her work, Brady’s intellectually rigorous poems mine all the resources of language and poetic technique to bear lyric witness and to provide the means by which to comprehend, constitute and critique the material and ideological forces of our contemporary world and its cultural industries.