Modern Literature / Twentieth-Century Poetry / American Literature

Career Moves
Olson, Creeley, Zukofsky, Berrigan, and the American Avant-Garde
Libbie Rifkin

"An engaging study of four major postwar American poets that ranges confidently over a significant amount of twentieth-century literary and intellectual history."—Tyrus Miller, University of California, Santa Cruz

How much did "making it new" have to do with "making it"? For the four "outsider poets" considered in this book—Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Louis Zukofsky, and Ted Berrigan—the connection was everything. At once a social history of literary ambition in America in the fifties and sixties and a uniquely collective form of literary biography, Career Moves offers an intimate account of the postwar poetry underground.

Making the controversial claim that anti-Establishment poets were at least as "careerist" as their mainstream peers, Libbie Rifkin shows how the nature of these poets' ambition actually defined postwar avant-garde identity. In doing so, she clarifies the complicated link between the crafting of a literary career and the defining of a literary canon.

"Career Moves breaks new ground, convening a topic that can't quite be said to have existed before now: the fluid realm between intention and act, glimmered purpose and subsequent publication, individual impulse and institutional codification. She has chosen for extended illustration a persuasive matrix of materials, ranging from manuscripts to conventional publications, and incorporating such unique sites as the public reading, the epistolary exchange, and the mimeographed little magazine."—Jed Rasula, Queens University

"Rifkin's marvelous close readings are alive to all that is happening on the page, including the culture-wide discursive battles that are central to any poem's autonomy."—Bob Perelman, University of Pennsylvania

"Rifkin advances a 'sociopoetics' of authorship in which the poetic career replaces the canon as the site of literary reception. A much-needed institutional history of four anti-institutional poets."—Michael Davidson, University of California, San Diego

"Rifkin conveys with immediacy, freshness, and nuance the processes by which four poets, fashioning and manipulating institutional environments, went about constructing themselves and the communities of readers and writers who would sustain the avant-garde revolution."—Lynn Keller, University of Wisconsin–Madison

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Libbie Rifkin runs the poetry program at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

October 2000
152 pp.    6 x 9
ISBN-10: 0-299-16840-9  
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-16840-7
Cloth $37.95 s
ISBN-10: 0-299-16844-1  
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-16844-5
Paper $16.95 s

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Update June 11, 2009

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