Renovating the Open Field: Innovative Women Poets Reclaiming an Erasure History

O’Connor, Wanda (2023). Renovating the Open Field: Innovative Women Poets Reclaiming an Erasure History. In: Morris, Daniel ed. The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry and Politics since 1900. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 242–260.



Florence Howe’s 1993 revised and expanded poetry anthology No More Masks!: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Women Poets continues the work of the first edition, with poet Muriel Rukeyser’s The Poem as Mask providing the “vision” for the collection, as Howe notes the “fragments and the invisibility that control women’s lives [to], at last, come to wholeness and vision” (F. Howe xxix). Howe’s new edition responded to “new differences [that] now divide women’s poetic consciousness” and considered that “to be a woman poet is to encompass,” after Adrienne Rich, “the difficult world” (xxix, xxxi). The volume illustrates the collection’s purpose with Rukeyser’s starting poem where she identifies a mask worn by women that once concealed the individual, the self “unable to speak, in exile from myself” (xxvii). The Poem as Mask – focusing on the mythology of Orpheus – calls for “No more masks! No more mythologies!” to put an end to the masking through myths imposed on women writers and to signal a move toward new mythologies that emerge from the women’s self, an identity once split that finds its oneness.

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