CHAPTER 7
Experimentation and Form

Here, in the final chapter, we turn to the formal and experimental qualities of poetry by women. There are a number of qualifications to make before proceeding any further. The first is to note that, as this book has already shown, poetry by women is hugely varied in tone, voice, subject matter and form. To look for any peculiarly 'feminine' choice of form might be specious. The second is to remind ourselves that the poetry by women which has received circulation, which has been published or anthologised or admitted into a newly recognised female canon is not necessarily representative of the most innovative of women's work. Although there have been exceptions (the modernist and 'Imagist' interventions of H. D. and Lowell in the twentieth century, for instance), poetry which too radically pushes the parameters of orthodox form or which deviates from the model of the brief lyric mode has struggled to acquire an audience, admission to the canon or into the anthologies from which it might derive recognition. Reading habits and publishing practices change, and innovative or atypical poetry by women of previous generations has not always remained in view. As Emily Stipes Watts remarks of the disappearance from sight of Anne Bradstreet's extensive repertoire of long poems: 'Most recent critics and anthologisers tend to favour her short “domestic” verses, those poems directed to her husband, children, or grand children, or the brief, devotional poems […] The long “nondomestic” poems are generally ignored, even though they form the bulk of the

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Women's Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Chronology x
  • Prologue 1
  • Introduction 6
  • Chapter 1 - Self-Reflexivity 23
  • Chapter 2 - Performance 55
  • Chapter 3 - Private Voices 79
  • Chapter 4 - Embodied Language 111
  • Chapter 5 - Public Speech 138
  • Chapter 6 - Poetry and Place 166
  • Chapter 7 - Experimentation and Form 187
  • Conclusion 205
  • Student Resources 209
  • Index 224
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