Lyn Lifshin Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although Lyn Lifshin (LIHF-shin) is best known for her poetry, she has edited two significantly different editions of Tangled Vines (1978, 1992); Ariadne’s Thread (1982), a collection of women’s diaries and journals; and Lips Unsealed (1990), a collection of women’s confidences. She also has published an autobiography and a how-to book for writers.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Lyn Lifshin has been described as one of the most widely published and least understood American poets of the last half of the twentieth century, with her work appearing in virtually every small press magazine from the most obscure to the most prominent. She has compiled more than ninety collections of her poetry, and her poems have appeared in many anthologies of women’s poetry during her long writing life. As a performance poet, she projected an image of the poet as rock star, one of the personas that, while alluring, represented only a partial picture of an artist of range and depth. The striking image of a waif with long blond hair dressed in tight blouses and miniskirts was a display of composure that camouflaged an introspective uncertainty about her achievements even as her work was finding a place in American postmodern poetry culture.

Lifshin won the Hart Crane Award, the Jack Kerouac Award from Cherry Valley Editions for Kiss the Skin Off, and Paterson Awards for Before It’s Light and Another Woman Who Looks Like Me. She has also received a Bread Loaf scholarship, numerous Yaddo fellowships, and Millay Colony fellowships. As John Martin’s respected Black Sparrow Press began to publish her poems in hardcover editions (Cold Comfort and Another Woman Who Looks Like Me), and academically affiliated small presses were publishing extended sequences such as The Licorice Daughter, casual dismissals of her early work were being replaced by more intelligent and responsive commentary. Neglected by mainstream poets and critics for decades, Lifshin has become, in the twenty-first century, one of the more highly regarded poets in the American literary cosmos.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Battiata, Mary. “Madonna Who Writes Ten Poems a Day.” Washington Post, August 17, 1997, p. W21. A useful if somewhat condescending article that surveys the reputation and place of Lifshin in the contemporary poetry culture. It contains numerous assessments from well-known poets and critics.

Fox, Hugh. Lyn Lifshin: A Critical Study. Troy, N.Y.: Whitston, 1985. This study is a sensitive, detailed reading of most of the pre-1985 poems.

Lifshin, Lyn. “Lyn Lifshin: Queen of the Small Press.” Interview by Raindog. Lummox Journal (January, 1998). While this is a typical interview of Lifshin after the publication of Cold Comfort, it does contain detailed comments on individual poems.

_______. “On the Outside: Lips, Blues, Blue Lace.” In Contemporary Authors. Detroit: Gale, 2003. An “autobiographical essay” written for the Gale series. A revealing account of her writing life, twenty-five pages of densely written, expressionistic poetic prose, not comprehensive but very detailed on crucial events.

_______. “The Poetry of Lyn Lifshin.” http://www The official Web site for Lifshin. Offers a biography and information on her works. Contains audio of Lifshin reading her poems and information on events featuring the poet.