Tony Trigilio brings together for the first time all of the poems and fragments in Elise Cowen’s surviving notebook, recovering the work of a postwar female poet whose reputation had been submerged for more than a half-century. Remembered dismissively as the woman who dated Allen Ginsberg for a brief time in the early 1950s, she wrote hundreds of poems, many in a lyric mode that recalls Sappho and many in a visionary mode that resembles Emily Dickinson. After her suicide in 1962, nearly all of her work was destroyed. One notebook survived, rescued by a close friend, and this notebook is the basis for Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments.
“Trigilio has done an enormous service to Beat scholarship in gathering the works and ephemera of Elise Cowen in one volume. He did an excellent job of, as he puts it, ‘staying out of her way’ and allowing Cowen’s words to speak for her. The stark beauty and truth of her poetry sings off the page—as fresh and modern as anything being written today. Students of 20th-century American poetry owe a debt of gratitude to Trigilio, truly a literary archeologist, for bringing this important writer out of the shadows.” —Brenda Knight, editor of Women of the Beat Generation