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The Feminist Avant-Garde in American Poetry

The Feminist Avant-Garde offers a historical and theoretical account of avant-garde women poets in America from the 1910s through the 1990s and asserts an alternative tradition to predominantly male-dominated avant-garde movements. Frost argues that this alternative lineage distinguishes itself by its feminism and its ambivalence toward existing avant-garde projects; she also thoroughly explores feminist avant-garde poets’ debts and contributions to their male counterparts.

“If this book makes one thing clear, it’s that the avant-garde is not something you decide to put on like a new dress; instead it is an active and necessary response to a historical and aesthetic moment. . . . The strength of these writers is that they will never occupy a center, a ‘main’ stream. Instead their poems make audible the polyglot rumbling and roaring on the periphery.”

–Jena Osman, The Women’s Review of Books

“In reading feminist experimental poetry through theories of the avant-garde, Frost offers a new framework for examining the diverse projects of Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Susan Howe, Harryette Mullen, and, unexpectedly, Sonia Sanchez. . . . Frost shows how these writers embrace avant-garde strategies while resisting group affiliations and challenging male avant-garde reinscriptions of dominant conceptions of gender. Commendably, she does not impose a false unity on her feminist avant-garde but stresses its diversity and discontinuity.”
–Anne Raine, American Literature

“Elisabeth Frost’s book is a first-rate example of feminist historiography: original in its insights, lucid in its argumentation. . . . This book establishes Frost, also a poet, as a scholar of formidable skill and vision.”
–Rick Taylor

“Informed and insightful, this fascinating study of a feminist avant-garde tradition in poetry of the last century is both important and, because experimental work is now dramatically reshaping poetry in English, timely.”
–Lynn Keller, professor of English, University of Wisconsin–Madison



Part I: Women Poets and the Historical Avant-Gardes

1. “Replacing the Noun”: Fetishism, Parody, and Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons

2. “Crisis in Consciousness”: Mina Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose”

Part II: Agendas of Race and Gender

3. “a fo / real / revolu / shun”: Sonia Sanchez and the Black Arts Movement

Part III: Traditions of Marginality

4. “Unsettling” America: Susan Howe and Antinomian Tradition

5. “Belatedly Beladied Blues”: Hybrid Traditions in the Poetry of Harryette Mullen