from    Introduction to il cuore: the heart
by Peter Quartermain

      The necessity to break preprogrammed poetics, to challenge preset forms, has been in Fraser's work pretty well from the start, perhaps even from her grade seven poetry classes, where, she tells us, "what had been joyful became flattened and restrictive," and she learned to hate the frame of mechanized response to guessed-at authorial intent. Her own poetry interrogrates the role of the poet in the writing process. Hers is a poetics of discovery; it belongs to no school. In her ground-breaking essay "the Tradition of Marginality" (written in 1985) Fraser talks of "a different kind of attentiveness, . . . a listening attitude, an attending to unconscious connections, a backing off of the ego to allow the mysteries of langauge to come forward and resonate more fully." As her work progresses, the attention of the poems shifts more and more to the compositional process as a means of undermining the traditional idea of authorial control over the "well-crafted" poem. In her essay on the line (1988) she speaks of disobedience and its necessities - "Breaking rules, breaking boundaries, crossing over, going where you've been told not to go" - as one of the true tasks of the poet. "How she notices," observes a line in "Locations" (1978), "is a formal fact." Innovative, it is a writing that attests, driven by abiding curiosity and persistence of vision, listening tot he multiple voices clamouring inside her.

      Fraser's resistance to consequence derives in part from her sense of the instability, the indeterminacy, the undecidability, of language, and from her constant suspicion that "the scrubbed and well-brushed historic formulas of the known," themselves linguistic constructs, actively prevent us from recognizing the multiple and idiosyncratic by upholding received models of perfection. It derives in part, too, from the apprehension of female inconsequence which she contested so innovatively and influentially in HOW(ever) (1983-91[sic]). In editing this journal, she radically transformed the notion of consequence by publishing linguistically foregrounded celebrations of the fragmented and "merely domestic" experience of women. It derives in part, too, from three great permission givers, Barbara Guest, George Oppen, and Wallace Stevens, whose music, accuracy, and attentiveness to words "unloosed" ordinary habits of reading; this development of poetics facilitated Fraser's formal explorations and her development of a voice capable of illuminating women's variousness through an accessible yet uncommon language of personal experience.

reprinted with permission from il cuore: the heart