Among Friends: Engendering the Social Site of Poetry


I’m very pleased that an essay of mine is included in a great new collection of essays called Among Friends: Engendering the Social Site of Poetry, edited by Libbie Rifkin and Anne Dewey (with a wonderful cover painting by Susan Bee).  I’m particularly excited about the book because it feels like something of a companion to my own Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry, as it too focuses on friendship, poetry, and “the social site of the contemporary avant-garde.”   The collection takes up the vexed role of gender and women’s writing within avant-garde poetic communities, especially as it gets played out within actual poems.  As a whole, the book argues “that friendship is a promising site from which to trace the changing gender politics of post-1945 avant-garde and antiestablishment poetry,” as the editors put it in their introduction. “By studying how the intimate relationships that form the bedrock of community shape the poem as social site, these essays reveal tensions marginal and internal to the group as significant contexts of creativity and sources of change in poetic communities.”

The book features a really interesting array of essays by some excellent scholars and poet-critics, including Linda Russo on Philip Whalen and Joanne Kyger, Daniel Kane on Patti Smith and the Poetry Project, Lytle Shaw on the poetry community in Bolinas, Peter Middleton and Barrett Watten with essays on Language poetry, Maria Damon on Flarf, Ross Hair on Lorine Niedecker and Jonathan Williams, Ann Vickery on Jennifer Moxley, and Duriel Harris, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Ronaldo Wilson on the Cave Canem / Black Took Collective poetic community.  I’m honored to have my own work in such company.

My essay examines the little-discussed and rather rare phenomenon of cross-gender collaboration.  It focuses on a fascinating poem, “Engines,” that was co-written by Rae Armantrout and Ron Silliman in 1982.  I argue that the poem self-consciously explores a host of interesting questions about gender, the nature of collaboration, and the problematic yet generative relationship between women poets and Language poetry, both as a movement and as a community.

Please check out the book here:

and here:

Here are some blurbs for the book, by Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Brian Reed:

Among Friends is a fresh, suggestive and lively anthology whose focus on sociality, gender, affiliation, and friendship enriches current literary study. Personable and original, this anthology is full of scintillating information about contemporary people and poems, and it analyzes, theorizes about, and even performs the meanings and excitements of friendship in the literary field.”—Rachel Blau DuPlessis, professor emerita at Temple University, author, Purple Passages: Pound, Eliot, Zukofsky, Olson, Creeley, and the Ends of Patriarchal Poetry

“The essays collectively reaffirm an experimental/avant-garde poetic tradition and deftly demonstrate that gender, far from representing an ‘add on’ or ‘supplement’ to the study of postwar American poetics, is a means of speaking to the very core of a poet’s artistry and self-conception.”—Brian M. Reed, University of Washington, Seattle, author of Phenomenal Reading: Essays in Modern and Contemporary Poetics


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