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Blue Studios

Poetry and Its Cultural Work

Written by Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Publication Year: 2006

Feminist issues in avant garde poetry.
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.”

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. ix-x

My deepest thanks go to Hank Lazer and Juliana Spahr—for the two probing nonanonymous readers’ reports that helped me focus, cut, and mull this book as I was rewriting, remixing, and reconceptualizing it—and to Charles Bernstein for support. Dan Waterman, the Alabama editor, was terriffic, both professional and adept. Joe Abbott was a stellar copy editor; Conna Clark,...

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pp. 1-12

Blue means freshened, old-fashioned blueing in wash water; blue sky rounding from the horizon; blue evokes an ideal, like the famous Azure of symbolist poetics; blue is intense, the color of batik. Sometimes blue means moody, depressed, forsaken. A Blue Studio is a pensive work site where a new world is hoped and an old can interrupt this hope. Thus it is a place of con-...

I. Attitudes and Practices

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1. Reader, I married me: Becoming a Feminist Critic

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pp. 15-33

No innocence in the autobiographical. What with its questions of saying “I” and the issue “what I” and how that “I” negotiates with various “selves”; and the question how much (a lot) is unsaid or repressed. With resistance to the cheerful myths of disclosure; with suspicion of narrative in the first place,and no self-justifying memories to legitimate “me” rather than anyone else....

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2. f-words: An Essay on the Essay

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pp. 34-47

In 1969 the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers prepared several tampered versions of Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard. On the cover Broodthaers’s name was given as author.1 My own quandary, in the spirit of that voracity, would be whether to offer “The Essay as Form” or A Room of One’s Own by Rachel Blau DuPlessis. In Broodthaers’s Mallarmé, a version called...

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3. Blue Studio: Gender Arcades

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pp. 48-70

Dear Rachel: from Barbara Cole, 1997: “I have written to you before of my discomfort/concern/uneasiness with how I hear women—intelligent women, writing women, politically-aware women—discussing feminism and gender issues . . . [with] the same old [negative] arguments simply recirculated/regenerated.” Cole, 2002: “It seems I have had so many conversations as of...

II. Marble Paper

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4. Manifests

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pp. 73-95

Those tall white pasture clumps called cow parsnip, Queen Anne’s lace magnified, are, in Latin, umbellifers, flat-topped or rounded flower clusters. But sometimes people call them “umbrella flowers.” This work is closer to umbrella flowers than to umbellifers, down there on the ground with bricolaged theorizing practices, folk etymologies, and intransigent details. Those...

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5. Marble Paper: Toward a Feminist “History of Poetry”

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pp. 96-121

Preface. Marble paper. Endpapers of old, beautiful books. Shadows edging their pages. Drops of color, a specific mix of water and oil, pigment thrown down, a gelatin “size,” rich color stirred, disturbed, swirled, combed, patterned, or random. Curious—sometimes water paint, on oil, sometimes oil...

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6. Propounding Modernist Maleness: How Pound Managed a Muse

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pp. 122-136

Critical clich

III. Urrealism

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7. Lorine Niedecker, the Anonymous: Gender, Class, Genre, and Resistances

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pp. 139-161

That’s it. One quatrain. Remember and think guide the meditation remember addressed to a listener, think addressed to the self. The poem is syntactically eerie, ambiguous in meaning, and split in impact. It speaks from an adult voice, but the first two lines emerge as if from a child. One might...

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8. The Gendered Marvelous: Barbara Guest, Surrealism, and Feminist Reception

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pp. 162-185

Some constellations. In a discussion of Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin states that the “conditions for a positive reception of lyric poetry” have become more problematic in modernity because of a “change in the structure of [people’s] experience” (Benjamin 1969, 156). What has changed? The “replacement” of narrative by information and “of information by sensation”...

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9. “Uncannily in the open”: In Light of Oppen

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pp. 186-206

I have chosen this topic, yet it is difficult for me to speak about George Oppen, since in a certain light everything I write is set against his uncompromising sign.1 When a person writing poems is frightened by George Oppen, she may have started (cf. SL 123–24). Oppen writes a poetry of negativity...

IV. Migrated Into

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10. On Drafts: A Memorandum of Understanding

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pp. 209-217

I cannot romanticize poetry. It is hard to make up words about it. Poetry is the creation of a necessary object made in and of lines of language. As a poet, I work with language and its critique—words, their histories, the play of social materials and discourses, the twangs of nuance, neologisms, aphasias, syntax, and the construction of continuities by sequencing. I work...

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11. Haibun: “Draw your Draft”

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pp. 218-235

Her books on my shelf, waiting for me to attend; I had bought them, yet I didn’t read them. Grove and New Directions. The photo on Bid Me to Live, taken at a vertiginous angle. Of a blank space. Telling the book by its cover. Telling a woman’s book looking only at the surface. (For it was not blank; it was a photo of a British military monument. Could I not see?) This prereading...

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12. Inside the Middle of a Long Poem

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pp. 236-252

Halfway through Drafts.1 A gloomy wood, politically darker and darker, without allegorical meetings or proleptic creatures. Just a stake driven into the ground, a stop to turn where I was going. Not just at the middle, but inside it, caught, curious about both pivot and ongoingness, pulled into an anxious present. (I mean a quondam coup in the United States, a terrorist...


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pp. 253-278


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pp. 279-298


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pp. 299-302

E-ISBN-13: 9780817381837
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817353216

Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 425970102
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Blue Studios

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Subject Headings

  • Poetry -- Authorship -- Sex differences -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Sex role in literature
  • Feminist poetry, American -- History and criticism.
  • Feminism and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • American poetry -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
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