In an insightful and provocative juxtaposition, Margaret Dickie examines the poetry of three preeminent women writers Gertrude Stein, Elizabeth Bishop, and Adrienne Rich investigating the ways in which each attempts to forge a poetic voice capable of expressing both public concerns and private interests. Although Stein, Bishop, and Rich differ by generation, poetic style, and relationship to audience, all three are twentieth-century lesbian poets who struggle with the revelatory nature of language. All three, argues Dickie, use language to express and to conceal their experiences as they struggle with a censorship that was both culturally sanctioned and self-imposed. Dickie explores how each poet negotiates successfully and variously with the need for secrecy and the desire for openness.
By analyzing each poet's work in light of the shared themes of love, war, and place, Dickie makes visible a continuity of interests between these three rarely linked women. In their very diversity of style and strategy, she argues, lies a triumph of the creative imagination, a victory of poetry over polemic.