Temma F. Berg, editor
co-editors: Anna Shannon
Elfenbein, Jeanne Larsen, Elisa Kay Sparks
University of Illinois Press, 1989
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.
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