In her now-classic The Pink Guitar, Rachel Blau DuPlessis examined a number of modern and contemporary poets and artists to explore the possibility of finding a language that would question deeply held assumptions about gender. In the 12 essays and introduction that constitute Blue Studios, DuPlessis continues that task, examining the work of experimental poets and the innovative forms they have fashioned to challenge commonplace assumptions about gender and cultural authority.
The essays in “Attitudes and Practices” deal with two questions: what a feminist reading of cultural texts involves, and the nature of the essay itself as a mode of knowing: how poetry can be discursive and how the essay can be poetic. The goal of “Marble Paper,” with its studies of William Wordsworth, Ezra Pound, and Charles Olson is to suggest terms for a “feminist history of poetry.”
“Perspectives must be fashioned that displace and estrange the world,” Theodore Adorno wrote, and in the section "Urrealism" DuPlessis examines the work of poets from several schools (the Objectivists, the New York School, the surrealists) whose work embodies that displacement, among them George Oppen, Lorine Niedecker, H.D., and Barbara Guest. These writers’ radical deployment of line, sound, and structure, DuPlessis argues, demonstrate poetry’s power not as a purely literary, artistic, or aesthetic force but as a rhetorical form intricately tied to issues of power and ethics. And in "Migrated Into,” the author probes the ways these issues have informed her, as a poet and a critic; how the political has “migrated into” and suffused her own work; and how the practice of poetry can be an arousal to a deeper understanding of what we stand for.
The Feminist Avant-Garde in American Poetry offers a historical and theoretical account of avant-garde women poets in America from the 1910s through the 1990s and asserts an alternative tradition to the predominantly male-dominated avant-garde movements. Elisabeth Frost argues that this alternative lineage distinguishes itself by its feminism and its ambivalence toward existing avant-garde projects; she also thoroughly explores feminist avant-garde poets' debts and contributions to their male counterparts.
Women’s voices offering an intimate view into women’s lives
Lizzie Borden in Love, a collection of poems by national bestselling author Julianna Baggott, offers poignant commentary in the voices of women as varied as Mary Todd Lincoln and Monica Lewinsky. The poems often focus on a particular moment in life: Katherine Hepburn discovers the dead body of her brother in an attic, or painter Mary Cassatt mourns the failure of her eyesight. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes ecstatic, the poems in this collection never fail the trust of the subjects of their intimate portrayals
Lyric Interventions explores linguistically innovative poetry by contemporary women in North America and Britain whose experiments give rise to fresh feminist readings of the lyric subject. The works discussed by Linda Kinnahan explore the lyric subject in relation to the social: an “I” as a product of social discourse and as a conduit for change.
Contributing to discussions of language-oriented poetries through its focus on women writers and feminist perspectives, this study of lyric experimentation brings attention to the cultural contexts of nation, gender, and race as they significantly shift the terms by which the “experimental” is produced, defined, and understood.
This study focuses upon lyric intervention in distinct but related spheres as they link public and ideological norms of identity. Firstly, lyric innovations with visual and spatial realms of cultural practice and meaning, particularly as they naturalize ideologies of gender and race in North America and the post-colonial legacies of the Caribbean, are investigated in the works of Barbara Guest, Kathleen Fraser, Erica Hunt, and M. Nourbese Philip. Secondly, experimental engagements with nationalist rhetorics of identity, marking the works of Carol Ann Duffy, Denise Riley, Wendy Mulford, and Geraldine Monk, are explored in relation to contemporary evocations of “self” in Britain. And thirdly, in discussions of all of the poets, but particularly accenuated in regard to Guest, Fraser, Riley, Mulford, and Monk, formal experimentation with the lyric “I” is considered through gendered encounters with critical and avant-garde discourses of poetics.
Throughout the study, Kinnahan seeks to illuminate and challenge the ways in which visual and verbal constructs function to make “readable” the subjectivities historically supporting white, male-centered power within the worlds of art, poetry, social locations, or national policy. The potential of the feminist, innovative lyric to generate linguistic surprise simultaneously with engaging risky strategies of social intervention lends force and significance to the public engagement of such poetic experimentation.
This fresh, energetic study will be of great interest to literary critics and womens studies scholars, as well as poets on both sides of the Atlantic.
This book examines the strategic possibilities of poetic self-restraint. Marianne Moore,Elizabeth Bishop, and May Swenson all wrote poetry that is marked by a certain reserve--precisely the motive against which most feminist poets and critics of the last thirty years have established themselves. Kirstin Hotelling Zona complicates this dichotomy by examining the conceptions of selfhood upon which it depends. She argues that Moore, Bishop, and Swenson expressed their commitment to feminism by exposing its most treasured assumptions: they not only challenge the ideal of autonomous self-definition, but also contest the integrity of a bodily or sexual authenticity by which that ideal is often measured.
In recent years critical studies of Bishop and Moore have flourished, a large percentage of them devoted to explorations of sexuality and gender. A gap is growing, however, between feminist repossessions of Moore and Bishop and recent readings of their antiessentialist poetics. On the one hand, these poets are appearing more frequently in the feminist canon, but the price of this inclusion is usually the suppression of their strategies of self-restraint. While Zona questions the poetic privileging of self-expression, she establishes contiguity between feminist poetry and developments in American poetry at large. In doing so she asserts the centrality of feminist poetry within discussions of contemporary American poetry, thereby challenging the common perception of feminist poetry as an "alternative" (which often means auxiliary) genre.
Kirstin Hotelling Zona is Assistant Professor of Poetry and Poetics, Illinois State University.
The first scholarly study of Adrienne Rich’s full career examines the poet through her developing approach to the transformative potential of relationships
Adrienne Rich is best known as a feminist poet and activist. This iconic status owes especially to her work during the 1970s, while the distinctive political and social visions she achieved during the second half of her career remain inadequately understood. In Outward, poet, scholar, and novelist Ed Pavlić considers Rich’s entire oeuvre to argue that her most profound contribution in poems is her emphasis on not only what goes on “within us” but also what goes on “between us.” Guided by this insight, Pavlić shows how Rich’s most radical work depicts our lives—from the public to the intimate—in shared space rather than in owned privacy.
Informed by Pavlić’s friendship and correspondence with Rich, Outward explores how her poems position visionary possibilities to contend with cruelty and violence in our world. Employing an innovative framework, Pavlić examines five kinds of solitude reflected in Rich’s poems: relational solitude, social solitude, fugitive solitude, dissident solitude, and radical solitude. He traces the importance of relationships to her early writing before turning to Rich’s explicitly antiracist and anticapitalist work in the 1980s, which culminates with her most extensive sequence, “An Atlas of the Difficult World.” Pavlić concludes by examining the poet’s twenty-first century work and its depiction of relationships that defy historical divisions based on region, race, class, gender, and sexuality.
A deftly written engagement in which one poet works within the poems of another, Outward reveals the development of a major feminist thinker in successive phases as Rich furthers her intimate and erotic, social and political reach. Pavlić illuminates Rich’s belief that social divisions and the power of capital inform but must never fully script our identities or our relationships to each other.
Precarious Forms: Performing Utopia in the Neoliberal Americas explores how performance art and poetry convey utopian desires even in the bleakest of times. Candice Amich argues that utopian longing in the neoliberal Americas paradoxically arises from the material conditions of socioeconomic crisis. Working across national, linguistic, and generic boundaries, Amich identifies new political and affective modes of reception in her examination of resistant art forms. She locates texts in the activist struggles of the Global South, where neoliberal extraction and exploitation most palpably reanimate the colonial and imperial legacies of earlier stages of capitalism.
The poets and artists surveyed in Precarious Forms enact gestures of solidarity and mutual care at sites of neoliberal dispossession. In her analysis of poems, body art, and multimedia installations that illuminate the persistence of a radical utopian imaginary in the Americas, Amich engages critical debates in performance studies, Latin American cultural studies, literature, and art history.