Poetry News

New Poems from Bobbie Louise Hawkins Are Reviewed at HTMLGIANT

By Harriet Staff

One of poetry's favorite prose stylists, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, has some new books out, including a Belladonna* book of poems! Furthermore, these have just been reviewed at HTMLGIANT by Bay Area poet Patrick Dunagan. "Fifteen Poems is a republication of a lyrical sequence of poems that Bobbie Louise Hawkins wrote and read in 1971 in Bolinas. This book includes an introduction by Robert Duncan (1973) and an interview of Hawkins and Barbara Henning talking about the poems and the context (2012)." Dunagan writes that "Hawkins’ poems often arrive from off the cusp of momentary emotions that are grounded with lasting effect. They have lyrical weight which is always fleeting yet promises to leave you heavily burdened. Hawkins is committed to exploration of that burden." More:

She first read these poems publicly at a reading with poet Joanne Kyger in San Francisco in 1971 shortly after writing them. Robert Duncan attended the reading and was struck by her poem “The Thought That Was Called Helen” afterward he asked for a copy of the poem because, as he said, “I wanted to see whether you were taking material from H.D., but this is the Gnostic Helen”. Hawkins’ poem attests to a feminine identity which Duncan understood and appreciated. These poems mark the beginning of her start as a writer emerging out from the shadows cast by male peers.

As Duncan attests in his brief Preface to the poems, here is “a woman’s mysteries, a new Eleusis” which challenges the predominant patriarchal orders “to liberate in self and in the world the workings of a womanly imperative.” Hawkins knows too well how necessary and difficult it was for her to locate herself as a writer. She’s had to live with having the role(s) she would play imposed on her by men in her life and witnessed the travails women of her generation were expected endure. As she says in an interview with Barbara Henning included here:

I hate that phrase, “My wife at the time,” which some men use. What a dismissal. I’ve never heard a woman say, “My husband at the time.” People are absolutely willing to let a woman be a “muse” and that has to be the worst job description in the world. Being a muse means you sit someplace and watch this other person have all the fun.

Many readers may know of Hawkins primarily from the years she spent as Bobbie Creeley wife of poet Robert Creeley. Hawkins began writing more or less in secret shortly before they divorced and has continued ever since. Her writing exists quite well on its own merits without mention of Creeley, yet a large chunk of Selected Prose is comprised of The Sanguine Breast of Margaret, a thinly veiled accounting of the year the Creeley’s traveled down to Guatemala for “Bob” to work as an ad hoc private tutor on a plantation. This currently serves as the only available biographical account of that year in his life, so it’s rather essential reading for anybody interested in Creeley. In addition, Creeley comes under a valid criticism in the interview for his macho behavior in the relationship. At the time, he certainly wasn’t anybody a fellow writer would want to be married to. . . .

Read the full review here.

Originally Published: October 9th, 2012