In Which We Dig Into the 20th Century Experimental Female Poet Well For Another Gem There’s Literally Thousands of Them Down There

So Rae Armantrout may be a more familiar name.

The Ten Best Books of 2007

10. June by Lynn Xu

9. Amulet by Roberto Bolano

8. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

7. Karnak Cafe, Naguib Mahfouz

6. Selected Poems, Gwendolyn Brooks

5. Sudden Address: Selected Lectures 1981-2006 by Bill Berkson

4. Next Life, by Rae Armantrout

Next Life (Wesleyan Poetry)

I know a little about Rae, she’s from San Diego. As soon as I started preparing these insanely moving poems for you, I had to buy this item.

Complete Early Poems (Green Integer)

This volume covers her early career and it’s a handsome little book from Green Integer. Your mother would be so lucky to get this as a gift, my mother is going to get a framed picture of myself, but your mother deserves far better.

Rae’s lyricism and lucidity (ok that was a course at Brown)…Rae’s sense of the human… I love that phrase, sense of the human. I also loved Harold Bloom’s book about how Shakespeare invented humanity, that’s gotta be the dumbest thesis in history. I invented humanity, ask anyone. I also love golden retrievers.

Her early poems are so funny, I don’t know. They’re dead on about everything and your jaw kind of drops. She sort of writes herself into a corner like Ashbery, but that’s more of a male thing to do as a writer. A female thing to do is to stick your head in the oven. You know what I’m saying? You don’t. Terrific.

Is she snooty and obscure sometimes? Sure. We all are, at least everyone I know, which I grant you is hardly representative. Really it’s about not being afraid to fail. If you are afraid to fail, you’re probably not very good at what you do.

This is moving along on our theme of writing being experimental and yet also being extremely, almost overly emotional. It is how art should be, or at least all Quentin Tarantino movies. Refer to my top writers list in the meantime.

Her EPC bio page.

New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan Poetry Series)

This is her Selected, which you may purchase here.


by Rae Armantrout


a spring there

where his entry must be made

signals him on


the sentence


isn’t turned to salt

no stuttering


I am walking

covey in sudden flight

Extremities, 1978.

Rae’s work in Jubilat.


by Rae Armantrout

spider on the cold expanse
of glass, three stories high
rests intently
and so purely alone.

I’m not like that!

The Invention of Hunger, 1979

de Kooning’s Fire Island, 1946.


by Rae Armantrout

The eye roves
back and forth, as
indictment catches up?

If shadows tattoo
the bare shelf,
they enter by comparison?

A child’s turntable fastened
to the wall with a white cord
will not?

Unless on its
metal core
an unspeakable radiance…

Think in order
to recall
what the striking thing

(So impotently
loved the world

Precedence, 1985

“Never Going Back Again” — Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

“The Chain” — Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

“Big Love” — Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

“Don’t Stop” — Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

De Kooning’s Two Trees, 1975.


by Rae Armantrout

I’m just soaking up all
this nurturing,”
one stressed—

so a noun
is a kind of scab.


Leaf still
fibrillating on the vine;

watch it closely
for a minute
as if listening
to a liar.


Bird-trills break
into droplets
then rise

so beauty’s a residue
of banished desires?

Made to Seem, 1995.


A Pulse

by Rae Armantrout

Find the place
in silence
that is a person

or like a person
or like not
needing a person.


After the heart attack
she fills her apartment
with designer accents—

piece by piece.


This is a bed,
an abiding
at least,

close to lastly
but nicer.


Light changes:

anxiety refers
to this

as next
tears itself off


A hospital calendar
shows the sun going down
on an old-time,
round, lime-green


Just a quick trip back
to mark the spot
where things stop
looking familiar.

Made to Seem, 1995.

Rae reads “Crossing” at Salon.

Rae is extremely generous with her work. I am probably not going to get her in CapGun 3, but I mean, maybe.

You can listen to Rae at The Kenyon Review here.

We’re nursing a small de Kooning love since this post.

14 thoughts on “In Which We Dig Into the 20th Century Experimental Female Poet Well For Another Gem There’s Literally Thousands of Them Down There

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