Saturday, September 22, 2007

Blue Studies by Rachel Blau DuPlessis

I’m reading Blue Studios by Rachel Blau DuPlessis and barely can contain my excitement about this book. It thrills me on so many levels. First this is the sort of book that I want to write in twenty-five years. The prose is gorgeous and multi-layered. The analysis is deep in the world of modern and contemporary poetry and she also leaps across knowledges in ways that I envy. Lately, I realize that I have been reading books of criticism by poets that is the first book of criticism and there is a tremendous transformation between a first book and books written at the height of one’s career, which I think this book is. The breadth of knowledge combined with a longer-term, historical perspective is amazing. I’m dazzled by this book - and I’ve only completed the three essays, in part because I keep returning to reread each essay and underline new ideas and make new associations. This book speaks to me and I am trilled to be reading it.

The first section, “Attitudes and Practices,” contains three essays, “Reader, I married me: Becoming a Feminist Critic,” “f-words, An Essay on the Essay,” and “Blue Studio: Gender Arcades.” In “Reader, I married me,” DuPlessis recounts her evolution with feminism. The early years of feminism, when she was a graduate student at Columbia, have chilling stories for DuPlessis with extraordinary sexism at Columbia. How she found her voice, however, as a poet, as an essayist, and as a literary critic, is just riveting.

DuPlessis’s exploration of essays as a form and how that form relates to her political orientations are fascinating. Her earlier essay, “For the Etruscans,” has been used as an example of feminist innovations in the form. I have it and am pulling the book to sit and reread it. I remember being riveted by it when I was nineteen. I wonder how I will feel about it now.

Finally, “Blue Studio” is an essay about what it means to be a feminist poet. It is written in response to a letter that appeared in a Canadian journal, Open Letter, by Barbara Cole titled “Feminism from and to.“ As I think a central part of this essay and the apparent dialogue between the two is generational, I’m trying to get my hands on the letter by Barbara Cole. So far, no luck, but I’m hopeful and dogged in pursuing the original.

Here are a few links about Rachel Blau DuPlessis:

Rachel Blau DuPlessis CV

Review of Blue Studios by Andrew Mossin

Finally, a brief note that I had to write this blog entry just to expel some of my exuberance for the book so that I can write something more thoughtful and analytical for my class. I suppose it is somewhat gauche to just rave about a book, but I must do it somewhere and so this becomes that space.

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