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.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Alicia Suskin Ostriker won the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America for The Imaginary Lover. The Crack in Everything was a National Book Award finalist in 1996 and earned her the Paterson Poetry Award (1997) and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award (1996). The Little Space was a 1998 National Book Award finalist.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Barron, Jonathan N., and E. Murphy Selinger, eds. Jewish American Poetry: Poems, Commentary, and Reflections. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2000. This work, part of the Brandeis series in American Jewish History, includes Ostriker’s “The Eighth and Thirteenth,” along with a remarkable commentary by the poet, dealing with the question of what makes Jewish poetry “Jewish.”

Frost, Elisabeth A., and Cynthia Hogue, eds. Innovative Women Poets: An Anthology of Contemporary Poets and Interviews. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2006. Contains an interview by Hogue of Ostriker and a brief biography of Ostriker and a selection of her poems. Provides a look at Ostriker’s views of poetry.

Kelly, David, ed. Poetry for Students. Vol. 26. Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2007. Contains an analysis of Ostriker’s poem “Mastectomy.”

Ostriker, Alicia. Interview by Gary Pacernick. In Meaning and Memory: Interviews with Fourteen Jewish Poets, edited by Pacernick. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2001. Ostriker discusses the loneliness of the writer, the many facets of language, and other provocative topics.

_______. Introduction to Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets, edited by Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians. Hoboken, N.J.: Melville House, 2002. Discusses the importance of poetry as a medium that stretches and contracts to mirror the age.