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Forms of Expansion

Recent Long Poems by Women

Expanding the boundaries of both genre and gender, contemporary American women are writing long poems in a variety of styles that repossess history, reconceive female subjectivity, and revitalize poetry itself. In the first book devoted to long poems by women, Lynn Keller explores this rich and evolving body of work, offering revealing discussions of the diverse traditions and feminist concerns addressed by poets ranging from Rita Dove and Sharon Doubiago to Judy Grahn, Marilyn Hacker, and Susan Howe.

Arguing that women poets no longer feel intimidated by the traditional associations of long poems with the heroic, public realm or with great artistic ambition, Keller shows how the long poem’s openness to sociological, anthropological, and historical material makes it an ideal mode for exploring women’s roles in history and culture. In addition, the varied forms of long poems—from sprawling free verse epics to regular sonnet sequences to highly disjunctive experimental collages—make this hybrid genre easily adaptable to diverse visions of feminism and of contemporary poetics.

381 pages | 2 halftones, 6 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 1997

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

Introduction: Pushing the Limits of Genre and Gender: Women’s Long Poems as Forms of Expansion
1: "To Remember / Our Dis-membered Parts": Sharon Doubiago and the Complementary Woman’s Epic
2: "Helen, Your Strength / Is in Your Memory": Judy Grahn’s Lesbian Warriors and Gynocentric Tales of the Tribe
3: Sequences Testifying for "Nobodies": Rita Dove’s Thomas and Beulah and Brenda Marie Osbey’s Desperate Circumstance, Dangerous Woman
4: Measured Feet "in Gender-Bender Shoes": Marilyn Hacker’s Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons
5: "The Silences Are Equal to the Sounds": Documentary History and Susan Howe’s "The Liberties"
6: Grand Collage "Out of Bounds": Feminist Serial Poems by Beverly Dahlen and Rachel Blau DuPlessis
Conclusion: This Genre Which Is Not One: A Short Wrap-up on Long Poems by Women
Works Cited

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