The University of Wisconsin Press

Literary Criticism / Poetry / Women's Studies


A Gulf So Deeply Cut
American Women Poets and the Second World War
Susan Schweik

In a 1944 poetry review in The New Yorker Louise Bogan wrote, “The reason may or may not be the war, [but] the fact is an unusually large number of books written by women have appeared at the beginning of this fall season.” In A Gulf So Deeply Cut, Susan Schweik looks at war poems written by American women between 1941 and 1945 and, on a larger scale, examines the workings of gender in the politics of war.

The “gulf” Schweik writes of is the gulf between the sexes, between homefront and frontline, between the male soldier, traditionally understood to have experienced too much, and the woman left behind, assumed to have experienced nothing at all. Calling into question “experience of war” as an ideological construct, Schweik traces its links to masculinity and considers its implications for writers and readers of both sexes. She closely reads the poems of Louise Bogan, Marianne Moore, H.D., Elizabeth Bishop, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Gwendolyn Brooks, Muriel Rukeyser, Toyo Suyemoto, and Mitsuye Yamada, as well as the work of male poets such as Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Wilfred Owen, and Randall Jarrell.

Schweik draws upon an unusually wide variety of sources—not only published books of poetry but also manuscripts, letters, anthologies, government-sponsored propaganda, private journals and notebooks, material from the Black and the Yiddish presses, and work published in the internment camps by Japanese Americans. She reads the poems in relation to the social practices of war-making and of "gender-making," showing how they both reproduce and contest dominant perceptions of war and gender. A Gulf So Deeply Cut is invaluable as an analysis of the ideology of twentieth-century Anglo-American war poetry and as a multicultural history of modern American women's poetry.

Susan Schweik is associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

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January 1992
LC: 91-006577 PS
392 pp.   6 x 9

Book icon Paper $8.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-13044-2
Book icon Cloth $14.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-13040-4
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