Flawed Light: American Women Poets and Alcohol

Overview

The relationship between alcoholism and the poetic process has been well established, but the history of heavy-drinking poets in the twentieth century tilts disproportionately toward male writers such as John Berryman, Robert Lowell, or Theodore Roethke. Women poets, however, were just as susceptible to alcohol, and they very often wrote about its effects on their bodies, minds, and lives. In this study, Brett C. Millier looks at the role of drinking in the lives and poetry of American women poets in the first ...

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Overview

The relationship between alcoholism and the poetic process has been well established, but the history of heavy-drinking poets in the twentieth century tilts disproportionately toward male writers such as John Berryman, Robert Lowell, or Theodore Roethke. Women poets, however, were just as susceptible to alcohol, and they very often wrote about its effects on their bodies, minds, and lives. In this study, Brett C. Millier looks at the role of drinking in the lives and poetry of American women poets in the first half of the twentieth century. Millier reads the poems of Dorothy Parker, Louise Bogan, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Elinor Wylie, Léonie Adams, Isabella Gardner, and Elizabeth Bishop—and in counterpoint, the poems of Jean Garrigue—to see how they negotiated their alcoholism with their art.

 

Despite the shame and isolation these writers suffered as a result of their heavy drinking and despite the oppressive restrictions on subject matter placed on women poets by the critical establishment in this era, these female poets nevertheless wrote about alcohol. Millier looks at figures for alcohol and inebriation that these writers used in their work in defiance of the masculine Modernist code of impersonality in art. As women in a remarkable tradition of female lyric poets, their subjects and voices were circumscribed by their sex, but their lasting poems artfully record these painful struggles.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252034619
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 9/3/2009
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Brett C. Millier is Reginald L. Cook Professor of American Literature at Middlebury College and the author of Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It and other works.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Women Poets and Alcohol 1

1 "Just A Little One": Dorothy Parker as Archetype 17

2 The Alchemist: Louise Bogan 34

3 "I Must Not Die of Pity": Edna St. Vincent Millay's Addictions 60

4 "Hold To Oblivion": Elinor Wylie's Intolerable Life 78

5 "Thought's End": Leonie Adams and the Life of the Mind 93

6 "Words from the Piazza del Limbo": Isabella Gardner as Fallen Woman 111

7 The Prodigal: Elizabeth Bishop's Exile 128

8 Jean Garrigue: An Epilogue 150

Afterword 161

Notes 167

Bibliography 181

Index 193

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