Temma F. Berg, editor

co-editors: Anna Shannon Elfenbein, Jeanne Larsen, Elisa Kay Sparks

University of Illinois Press, 1989  

from my essay in this book:

“Text and Matrix: Dickinson, H.D., and Woman’s Voice”

            The lyric voice arises from within. Whatever air or Word breathes into us — inspires — it is lungs, throat, lips that form the words and push them out. And voice bears self, or says it does: as exhalations are transformed in the muscle-ringed channel of the windpipe and in the chamber of the mouth, what is created is a sibilant, sybilline sign — listen! can you hear me? — that the I is there.

            Chamber, channel: this is a female metaphor. It is there for anyone, man or woman, who bears a woman-self within. But it especially unleashes power [like the breaking of waters, like the letting-down of blood] for us whom the culture’s usual metaphors for poesis have denied. The poet need not woo the muse with swollen pen. She herself is the matrix of the text; she is the mother of her poems, spinning out her webs despite the looming patriarchal shush. Dickinson and H.D. teach us this, naming a new language, claiming power through their voices, engendering a woman’s right to speak a self.