Friday, May 26, 2006

Andrew Schelling replies today to Eliot Weinberger, noting the gender issues evident in the New Directions catalog.

Hi Eliot,

Looking at your ND list I see they didn't really miss a generation Focusing closer, I'd suggest though, they came rather late to people like Rosmarie Waldrop, Susan Howe, and Nate Mackey, who all were in their late fifties or even their sixties before joining the list. Aside from their antipathy for language poetry, it's evident that they missed the shift in gender balance that became noticeable through the nineteen-seventies and eighties. Of ND's eleven new poets in these two decades — from your list — only two are women, with HD dead in 1962.

Your suggestion that without Rexroth around, there was nobody to advise Laughlin — this sounds right.

Adding only a few poets a decade, ND could have chosen women such as Scalapino, Hejinian, S. Howe, F. Howe, Bev Dahlen, Kathleen Fraser, Rachel DuPlessis. There were also Niedecker, Kyger, di Prima, who were knocking around the small press world with no single publisher committing to any of them. This is probably the gap I sensed when I went through books on my shelf. From 1960-1990 (thirty years) it appears ND only took up three women: HD, Levertov, and R. Waldrop.

Another way to put it: you couldn't imagine the Beat decades or Black Mountain years without New Directions. But of shifts in American poetry through the eighties and nineties, ND is far less important than numerous other presses — such as Sun & Moon, Black Sparrow, and eventually North Point.