Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Alicia Suskin Ostriker (AHS-trih-kur) is as well known for her critical writings as she is for her poetry. Her doctoral dissertation became her first book, Vision and Verse in William Blake (1965). Ostriker’s nonfiction books explore many of the same themes that influence her poetry. Her study of the poems of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, H. D., May Swenson, and Adrienne Rich appeared in Writing Like a Woman (1983).

In her major study, Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America (1986), Ostriker probes the meanings of contemporary women’s poetry since the 1960’s. She traces the struggle of woman poets of the period to achieve self-definition in the context of a tradition designed to repress the female voice. Stealing the Language examines this new poetry in relation to its female roots and as an alternative to academic modernism, examining the poetics of body, anger, and violence as revisionist mythmaking in women’s poetry.

In The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (1994), Ostriker creates her own feminist midrash, and in For the Love of God: The Bible as an Open Book (2007), she reinterprets the Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Jonah, and Job. Dancing at the Devil’s Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic (2000) defines the difference between poetry and propaganda and surveys the aesthetic accomplishments of women’s poetry. Other essays in this collection discuss politics, love, and the spiritual lives in the work of several prominent American poets.