Rae Armantrout, one of the founding members of the West Coast group of Language poets, stands apart from other Language poets in her lyrical voice and her commitment to the interior and the domestic. Her short-lined poems are often concerned with dismantling conventions of memory, pop culture, science, and mothering, and these unsparing interrogations are often streaked with wit. “You can hold the various elements of my poems in your mind at one time, but those elements may be hissing and spitting at one another,” notes Armantrout.
According to critic Stephen Burt, “William Carlos Williams and Emily Dickinson together taught Armantrout how to dismantle and reassemble the forms of stanzaic lyric—how to turn it inside out and backwards, how to embody large questions and apprehensions in the conjunctions of individual words, how to generate productive clashes from arrangements of small groups of phrases. From these techniques, Armantrout has become one of the most recognizable, and one of the best, poets of her generation.”
The author of several collections of widely anthologized poetry, Armantrout has also published a short memoir, True (1998). Her Collected Prose was published in 2007. A California native, Armantrout earned her BA at UC Berkeley—where she studied with Denise Levertov—and she received her MA at San Francisco State. She is a professor and director of the New Writing Series at UCSD. Her most recent collection, Partly: New and Selected Poems, was published by Wesleyan University Press in 2016. A chapbook, Entanglements (2017), sprang from Armantrout’s long engagment with science and included new and old poems.
“I think my poetry involves an equal counterweight of assertion and doubt,” Armantrout has written. “It’s a Cheshire poetics, one that points two ways then vanishes in the blur of what is seen and what is seeing, what can be known and what it is to know. That double-bind.”