Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments

Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments


Edited by Tony Trigilio

Softcover, 208 pages

ISBN 978-1-934103-49-4

Designed for both general readers and scholars, this book 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.

Product Description

“Elise Cowen, an artist long obscured by legend, myth, archival uncertainty and copyright dispute, relegated to rumor and sensation, has been recuperated by Tony Trigilio’s groundbreaking collection of her poetry. Trigilio collects the primary material from the poet’s recovered notebook and provides, in his indispensable Notes to the Poems, an impressive critical literary historical analysis. A modern Eumenide and proto–second-wave feminist of uncompromising voice, Cowen’s searing verse poignantly claims female subjectivity. Thanks to Trigilio’s inspired, erudite and meticulous recovery work, this collection will make a profound difference in the way Beat movement writing is reckoned and experienced.”

—Ronna C. Johnson, co-editor and co-author with Nancy M. Grace of Girls Who Wore Black: Women Writing the Beat Generation

“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

“It’s the rarest of treats to find oneself privy to a poet’s composition processes, to see the play and struggle with language and space and the legacy of those who’ve gone before, to witness the birth of a unique vision in which resides our own histories, desires, and haunts. Trigilio, himself a poet as well as a literary scholar, has given us just such a rare opportunity in his finely edited collection of Elise Cowen’s poetry. From fragments to polished and extended verse, Cowen’s poetry gives witness to the many women of that period who dared to imagine themselves as artists—those with the power and responsibility to mirror the world for what it is, all with the knowledge that equality comes about only in the alchemical wonder of self-reflection.”

—Nancy M.Grace, co-author with Ronna C. Johnson of Breaking the Rule of Cool: Interviewing and Reading Beat Women Writers

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