When Lorine Niedecker died in 1970, the British poet and critic Basil Bunting eulogized her warmly. “In England,” he wrote, “she was, in the estimation of many, the most interesting woman poet America has yet produced.”

Aesthetically linked with the New York Objectivist poets, Niedecker remained committed to her community in rural Wisconsin despite the grinding poverty that dogged her throughout her life. Largely self-taught, Niedecker formed attachments through her voracious reading and correspondence, but she also delighted in the disruptive richness of vernacular usage and in the homegrown, improvisational aesthetics that thrived within her immediate world. Niedecker wrote from a highly attenuated concern with biological, cultural, and political sustainability and, in her stridently modernist poems, anticipated many of the most urgent concerns in twenty-first-century poetics. In Radical Vernacular, Elizabeth Willis collects essays by leading poets and scholars that make a major contribution to the study of an important but long overlooked American poet.

This pathbreaking volume contains essays by seventeen leading scholars: Rae Armantrout, Glenna Breslin, Michael Davidson, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Ruth Jennison, Peter Middleton, Jenny Penberthy, Mary Pinard, Patrick Pritchett, Peter Quartermain, Lisa Robertson, Elizabeth Robinson, Eleni Sikelianos, Jonathan Skinner, Anne Waldman, Eliot Weinberger, and Elizabeth Willis.

“Elizabeth Willis and her colleagues have made a significant new contribution to the study of an important American poet.”—Stephen Fredman, University of Notre Dame
"Niedecker studies, while not in their infancy, have much room for development. Radical Vernacular will figure large in this growing field."—Lisa Samuels, University of Auckland


Natural and Political Histories

Michael Davidson
Life by Water: Lorine Niedecker and Critical Regionalism

Mary Pinard
Niedecker’s Grammar of Flooding

Eleni Sikelianos
Life Pops from a Music Box Shaped Like a Gun:
Dismemberments and Mendings in Niedecker’s Figures

Jonathan Skinner
Particular Attention: Lorine Niedecker’s Natural Histories

Jenny Penberthy
Writing Lake Superior

Sounding Process

Lisa Robertson
In Phonographic Deep Song: Sounding Niedecker

Patrick Pritchett
How to Do Things with Nothing: Lorine Niedecker Sings the Blues

Rae Armantrout
Dark infested

Elizabeth Robinson
Music Becomes Story: Lyric and Narrative Patterning in
the Work of Lorine Niedecker

Ruth Jennison
Waking into Ideology: Lorine Niedecker’s Experiments
in the Syntax of Consciousness

Rachel Blau Duplessis
Lorine Niedecker’s “Paean to Place” and its Reflective Fusions

Niedecker and Company

Eliot Weinberger

Glenna Breslin
Lorine Niedecker: The Poet in Her Homeplace

Anne Waldman
Who Is Sounding? Awakened View,
Gaps, Silence, Cage, Niedecker

Elizabeth Willis
The Poetics of Affinity: Niedecker, Morris, and the Art of Work

Peter Middleton
The British Niedecker

Peter Quartermain
Take Oil / and Hum:
Niedecker / Bunting

Selected Bibliography

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Publication Details

Publication Date
Pages, art, trim size
334 pages, 4 photos, 6 x 9 inches