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Among Friends

Engendering the Social Site of Poetry

Anne Dewey and Libbie Rifkin

Publication Year: 2013

Philosophers and theorists have long recognized both the subversive and the transformative possibilities of friendship, the intimacy of which can transcend the impersonality of such identity categories as race, class, or gender. Unlike familial relations, friendships are chosen, opening a space of relative freedom in which to create and explore new identities. This process has been particularly valuable to poets marginalized by gender or sexuality since the second half of the twentieth century, as friendship provides both a buffer against and a wedge into predominantly male homosocial poetic communities.

Among Friends presents a richly theorized evocation of friendship as a fluid, critical social space, one that offers a vantage point from which to explore the gendering of poetic institutions and practices from the postwar period to the present. With friendship as an optic, the essays in this volume offer important new insights into the gender politics of the poetic avant-garde, since poetry as an institution has continued to be transformed by dramatic changes wrought by second-wave feminism, sexual liberation, and gay rights. These essays reveal the intimate social negotiations that fight, fracture, and queer the conventions of authority and community that have long constrained women poets and the gendering of poetic subjectivities.

From this shared perspective, the essays collected here investigate a historically and aesthetically wide-ranging array of subjects: from Joanne Kyger and Philip Whalen’s trans-Pacific friendship, to Patti Smith’s grounding of her punk persona in the tension between her romantic friendships with male artists and her more professional connections to the poets of the St. Mark’s scene, and from the gender dynamics of the Language School to the Flarf network’s reconception of poetic community in the digital age and the Black Took Collective’s creation of an intimate poetics of performance. Together, these explorations of poetic friendship open up new avenues for interrogating contemporary American poetry. 

Contributors: Maria Damon, Andrew Epstein, Ross Hair, Duriel E. Harris, Daniel Kane, Dawn Lundy Martin, Peter Middleton, Linda Russo, Lytle Shaw, Ann Vickery, Barrett Watten, Ronaldo V. Wilson

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

Scholarship rarely happens in a vacuum, and we wish to thank the many people who have helped to make this book possible. First, we are grateful to the community of scholars whose work on gender, social poetics, or both has informed our own, including Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Andrew Epstein, Michael Davidson, ...

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pp. 1-18

Leslie Scalapino’s portion of the piece that begins Sight, a long poem “written in pairs” with Lyn Hejinian, is an exercise in distinction. From the outset, Scalapino turns to face her coauthor in acts of differentiation central to her understanding of the collaborative work. ...

Part One | Friendship and Women’s Poetic Careers

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One | How You Want to Be Styled: Philip Whalen in Correspondence with Joanne Kyger, 1959 – 1964

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pp. 21-42

In the San Francisco spring of 1959 — just after “The San Francisco Scene” issue of the Evergreen Review shared editor Donald Allen’s view of a new generation of writers and just before his anthology The New American Poetry 1945–1960 would present a national portrait of the same ...

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Two | I Just Got Different Theories: Patti Smith and the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church

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pp. 43-64

From her time as a young performance poet in New York in the late 1960s to her current position as punk rock’s éminence grise, Patti Smith has foregrounded the image of the poet as privileged seer. Simultaneously, Smith’s emphatic rejection of stereotypically “feminine” personae in favor of an at-times masculine performative stance ...

Part Two | Community 2.0

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Three | Presence in the Poets’ Polis: Hippie Phenomenology in Bolinas

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pp. 67-86

The word bolinas produces a knowing look in poets who lived through the 1960s. But like the writing we associate with the town whose road sign on Highway One has long been a tradition for residents to remove, the look seems to indicate a state of unrecoverable experience, ...

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Four | When L=A: Language, Authorship, and Equality in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Magazine

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pp. 87-105

L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E (1978–1981) is one of the most distinctive American poetry magazines of the second half of the last century. More zine than magazine, more etics than poetics, industrial in its unadorned appearance: the first and many subsequent issues of the first three volumes of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, ...

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Five | After Literary Community: The Grand Piano and the Politics of Friendship

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pp. 106-129

I return to the project of The Grand Piano, our multiauthored “experiment in collective autobiography” that recounts the emergence of the San Francisco Language school of poets from 1975 to 1980, from a later moment of its history.1 While The Grand Piano was primarily devoted to producing a written document, ...

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Six | Between Friendship Network and Literary Movement: Flarf as a Poetics of Sociability

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pp. 130-150

Flarf, which was hailed as one of the (first) two “avant-garde superpowers of the twenty-first century,”1 is both a method of writing poetry and a de facto friendship network. The method is characterized by so-called “google-sculpting” (generating material through google searches for key words and phrases ...

Part Three | Inclinations

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Seven | Jargon Society: The Remote Relations of Lorine Niedecker and Jonathan Williams

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pp. 153-170

In Beautiful Enemies Andrew Epstein reassesses the Romantic notion of lyric subjectivity, arguing that it “should not be seen as an utterance issuing from an isolated subjectivity but as a social text, caught in a web of interpersonal and intertextual relations” (Beautiful Enemies 15). ...

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Eight | The Volley Maintained Nears Orgasm: Rae Armantrout, Ron Silliman, and the Cross-Gender Collaboration

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pp. 171-190

in 1982, Rae Armantrout and Ron Silliman, two central figures in the avant-garde movement known as Language poetry, decided to collaborate on a poem. First one poet wrote a fourteen-sentence paragraph of prose poetry, then mailed it to the other, who then added a fourteen-sentence paragraph ...

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Nine | In/Complete: Locating Origins of the Poet in Jennifer Moxley’s In Memoriams to Helena Bennett

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pp. 191-208

In New Social Tie, Deborah Chambers argues that friendship ties “are beginning to be viewed as an expression of intimacy that replaces the sense of social integration associated with the concept of ‘community’” (2). Novel forms of socialization, global communication, urban movements, and sexual communities have all impacted upon discourses of belonging. ...

Part Four | Among Friends

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Ten | Black Took Collective: On Intimacy & Origin

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pp. 211-238

I am sitting in my bed, the sweat from this afternoon’s tennis play still drying and the hum of the neighbor’s t.v. across the courtyard. I am off to another work event in a little less than a half hour, which might be the perfect time to think of our meeting. It was really in that dining room at Mt. St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY, ...


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pp. 239-256

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pp. 257-258

Black Took Collective was cofounded in 1999 by Duriel E. Harris, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Ronaldo V. Wilson at Cave Canem, a retreat for African American Poets. They are a group of Black post-theorists who perform and write in hybrid experimental forms, embracing radical poetics and cutting-edge critical theory about race, gender, and sexuality. ...


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pp. 259-270

Further Reading

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pp. 284-285

E-ISBN-13: 9781609381714
E-ISBN-10: 1609381718
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609381509
Print-ISBN-10: 1609381505

Page Count: 284
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: paper