Author (Your Name)

Diana Fuss, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)


Colby College. Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program


Mannocchi, Phyllis F.


The focus of "Contemporary American Women Poets. New Voices, New visions" is the new tradition of poetry presently being established by American women writers. With an aim towards determining what is distinctive to this tradition and why it has been formed, ten poets are considered in particular detail. Adrienne Rich, Tess Gallagher, Ai, Carolyn Forche, Judy Grahn. Audre Lorde, Louise Gluck, Kathleen Fraser, Olga Broumas, and May Sarton. Part I considers the origin of this new tradition and explores some of the obstacles American women poets are struggling to overcome. A consideration of the dilemma of the "divided woman" and the impassioned quest for wholeness that is produced is central to any understanding of why women have chosen to formulate a specifically female poetics. Tokenism in general and the oppressions encountered by minority women poets in particular further explain the need for a wholly new tradition of poetry determined and defined by women. Having examined in Part I the situation in which the contemporary woman poet finds herself, Part II explores the key themes and interests which characterize the new tradition being created. The influence of the family--of the patriarch and the matriarch--is of particular concern to the woman writer as she seeks to come to her own identity as poet and woman. Just as the traditional family structure is called into question, the institutions of marriage and motherhood are similarly re-evaluated from a feminist perspective. In questioning the foundations of the patriarchy and its literary tradition, the contemporary woman poet comes to a renewed appreciation of her connections with other women and of her own identity as female. Thus, the recurrent interest in female bonding, female sexuality, self-births, and matrilineal lines forms the thematic core of contemporary women's poetry and gathers these poets together into a tradition of women writers. Part III moves away from theme to focus more closely upon language, imagery. and creative sources. Contemporary American women poets question the patriarchal bias in language and work towards infusing the old terms with new significations. The concept of the female muse is also reclaimed, and goddesses are typically recalled as symbolic inspirational figures. The study's final chapter examines the charge that women's poetry is too "political" and seeks to resolve the tension between personal and political poetry posed in the modern period. Finally, the conclusion attempts to determine the various possible ways in which poetry by contemporary American women might continue to evolve as it further seeks to clarify the importance of this new, female tradition for the history of Western literature.


American poetry, Women authors, History and criticism, American poetry, Women authors, History and criticism, American poetry, 20th century. History and criticism