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Kathleen Fraser

Kathleen Fraser grew up in Oklahoma, Colorado, and California. After moving to New York for a career in magazine writing, she began studying in evening workshops with Stanley Kunitz (1961) and Kenneth Koch (1963). She was soon publishing poems in The Nation, Poetry, The New Yorker, The Hudson Review, and many small-press journals associated with Black Mountain and New York school poets. In 1964, Fraser received the YMHA Poetry Center’s Discovery Award and the New School’s Frank O’Hara Poetry Prize, later followed by an NEA Young Writers Discovery Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In the fall of 1972, Fraser returned to California to direct the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University, where she founded the American Poetry Archives.
      During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Fraser increasingly noted the exclusion of most experimental women poets from anthologies and serious critical treatments. In 1983, seeking to create a place for women poets writing outside the dicta of both second wave feminist poetry and the inheritors of male-centered modernism, Fraser founded the groundbreaking journal HOW(ever). In its seven years of publication as a paper journal, HOW(ever) became an important forum for innovative women poets, critics and scholars interested in modernist/postmodernist directions in women’s poetry in the twentieth century. Reclaiming an obscured tradition of women writers engaged in language experimentation (Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, H.D., Lorine Niedecker, Mina Loy, and Barbara Guest, among others), the women who published their work in HOW(ever) conducted an extensive investigation of the relationship of language to gendered experience. It was Fraser’s objective that the theoretical interest in poststructuralist literary problems would carry over into the investigation of current poetic practice and its intentions. [1]
      Fraser has published seventeen books, including What I Want (1974), New Shoes (1978), Each Next (1980), Something (even human voices) in the foreground, a lake (1984), Notes preceding trust (1988), When new time folds up (1993), WING (1995), Il cuore: the heart, Selected Poems 1970–1995 (1997), and Disrcete categories forced into coupling (2004). Important critical essays by Fraser that articulate approaches to understanding avant-garde women poets— including ‘Line. On the Line. Lining Up. Lined with. Between the Lines. Bottom Line’; ‘One Hundred and One Chapters of Little Times: The Fiction of Barbara Guest’; and ‘The Tradition of Marginality’ — have been collected in Translating the Unspeakable: Poetry and the Innovative Necessity (2000).
      Recognized in the last two decades as a writer whose poetic, critical, and editorial work has been central to the project of feminist experimental poetry in North America, Fraser reinvents inherited language structures, sometimes playfully, always attentively, listening for ‘the mysteries of language to come forward and resonate more fully,’ as she observes in ‘The Tradition of Marginality.’ Her poetic project might be characterized as ‘writing over “the erased,”’ as she punningly puts it — both rewriting and writing over a partially erased text, as well as overwriting (as in an ‘overwritten’ text which, because of that quality of paying attention to its artifice, technically draws attention to itself). Engaged in a visual as well as feminist poetics, Fraser’s work offers ways to think through how formal strategies interact with lived experience, encouraging us to consider the engagement with form not just as a method of representation in poetry, but also as a mode of experience.

[1] HOW(ever) was transformed into the electronic journal How2 (published out of Bucknell University currently) and archived at Rutgers University:
The current issue of the renamed How2 is available here:

Biographical note by Cynthia Hogue.

Kathleen Fraser: Links

link Jacket 22: Kathleen Fraser: Perturbed dialogues in Bromige’s ‘Six of One, Half-a-Dozen of the Other’
link Jacket 22: Geraldine McKenzie reviews Poetry and the Innovative Necessity, Essays by Kathleen Fraser
link Jacket 25 — Barbara Guest and Kathleen Fraser talk to Elisabeth Frost and Cynthia Hogue

Selected works by Kathleen Fraser

Discrete Categories Forced into Coupling (Berkeley, CA: Apogee Press, 2004)
hi dde violeth i dde violet (Vancouver, Canada: NOMADOS Press, 2003)
Translating the Unspeakable: Poetry and the Innovative Necessity (Tuscaloosa, AL: U of AL P, 2000)
il cuore: the heart: Selected Poems 1970-1995 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan, 1997)
WING (limited edition, 1995)
when new time folds up (Tucson, Az: Chax, 1993)
Notes Preceding Trust (Lapis Press, 1987)
Each Next: Narratives (Berkeley, CA: The Figures, 1980)

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