'[D]oubts, complications and distractions': Rethinking the role of women in language poetry

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Critchley, Emily (2009)
  • Publisher: Hot Gun!
  • Subject: PN

Ostensibly, the leading figures of the literary movement known as Language poetry were committed to heterogeneity, gender equality, and to attempting to undo the demarcations between generic forms such as critical and creative writing, from the movement’s outset. Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews, for example, write in their preface to The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book – a compilation of material from L=A=N=G=A=G=E magazine from which the movement got its name in the late 1970s – of their joint aim, in publishing the magazine, of foregrounding ‘a mix of different kinds of work. We especially wanted to provide a place for essays and reviews that were neither expository nor narrowly evaluative – that is, where the actual language work that goes on in poetry writing is not set aside in writing that “discusses.”’ Yet despite this positive opening, what follows in the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E anthology is characteristic of many of the anthologies and critical histories of Language poetry. Women author just ten percent of the anthology’s entries (though there are further essays about women’s work), and many of the essays included, certainly those that have become the most widely circulated, are written in normative, academic prose.
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