“A Tale of Two Keys: Rosmarie Waldrop’s Poetics of the Book”

by Susan Vanderborg

Yes, there is an instant when my poem or book seems “right,” when it is done. But is that instant “absolute”?

—Rosmarie Waldrop, Talisman interview

…[I]t is not easy for us to imagine such a realm, in which printed records were not necessarily authorized or faithful.

—Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book 

At what point can a book be described as a finished or an authoritative presentation? In an interview with Edward Foster for Talisman, Rosmarie Waldrop argued that a book’s form is never “‘absolute’” since there is no “definitive interpretation” of a text by either the writer or the readers (36, 34). Her sense of the book as an open form might characterize a range of postmodernist interventions in source texts, from the “writing through” projects of John Cage to the palimpsests of Susan Howe. [1] But what happens when a poem transplants not only the language of a source book but also its organization — the outlines, headings, and chapter structures that determine the way the audience processes the book’s information? In a twist on her intertextual writing style, Waldrop explores the implications of this subtly subversive theft in the 1994 text A Key into the Language of America.

Waldrop’s book has the same title as its source, Roger Williams’s 1643 study of the language and culture of the Narragansett tribe. In addition to mixing selections of his English and Narragansett words in her passages, she includes a copy of his title page, duplicates his chapter titles, and imitates his division of information within each chapter: cultural observations, vocabulary terms, and a concluding poem. By adopting his organization in her own text, she scrutinizes the different ways in which meaning can be categorized and visually arranged within the book form, asking readers to reexamine the process by which they assess any textual data as trustworthy. The result is a “book-poem” that challenges the very concept of the book as a tool to communicate reliable knowledge. [2]

The orderly arrangement of information in Williams’s Key is the perfect background for the disruptive investigations of a book-poem. Williams introduces his phrases and observations as a much-needed cross-cultural guide, the symbolic key to an informational treasure box of “Rarities” that can lead to still further discoveries: “A little Key may open a Box, where lies a bunch of Keyes” (83). [3] To give readers easy access to that information, each chapter lists vocabulary entries by theme (e.g., marriage, religion, government) and carefully classifies commentary from the “generall” to the “More particular” (104). A prefatory set of “Directions” (90) ensures that the book will be “pleasant and profitable for All” to use (83). Within the chapters, Williams combines concise morals about “Pagans” who act more virtuously than the purportedly Christian colonists (116) with repeated reminders to his readers in the didactic poems about the need to restore New Testament values.

Bending the Book

As in Waldrop’s previous palimpsests, her reproduction of the source creatively distorts what it borrows. [4] At the thematic level, Waldrop’s Key pays tribute to Williams’s nuanced treatment of Narragansett society and land use while it also critiques his prejudices and omissions from a modern “immigrant’s take on the heritage and complex early history of [her] adopted country” (xxiii). [5] But mirroring Williams’s guidebook in this case turns the entire structure of his Key into the foreign text — distanced in both time and cultural context — to be analyzed. Waldrop copies and subverts the function of each book convention that seems to guarantee reliable information, explicitly rejecting a model of accessibility or usefulness for her text. Waldrop’s remark that her “word lists,” in contrast with those of Williams, “are not of practical use” (xxiii) is only the first step in a project that substitutes false leads for his directions, digressions for his arguments, and broken patterns for his categories. Where Williams worries about colonists who fail to keep their promises, Waldrop creates a book that self-consciously presents itself as a deceitful resource, contradicting and dismantling its information outlines.

Her introduction, for example, initially resembles Williams’s prefatory material in providing explanations and usage notes, but her guidelines conceal the actual relation between the two Keys and the fact that her divisions of information are misleading. The statement that Williams’s language is set off from her own writing by “its archaic syntax and vocabulary printed in boldface” gives the impression of a clear original to be retrieved so that “Roger Williams’s voice will be recognized” (xxii). Yet the rest of the book undermines that expectation of typographic distinctions in meaning. Some of the excerpts taken from Williams’s chapters are reproduced in boldface type while others are not, and this can include adjacent segments from the same sentence or passage. Nor does the boldface signify more accurate copying. The seventeenth-century phrases in either typeface may be altered from Williams’s language, at times with minor changes in capitalization but often with deletions, rearrrangements, or substitutions such as “white men” (17) for Williams’s “Englishman” (136) that expand the meaning considerably. Because of the discrepancies, readers unwilling to consult the 1643 text can never be certain of the exactness of any insert.

What Is Fixed in Print

Waldrop’s play with these faulty reproductions raises broader questions about the stability and accuracy of printed texts. The assumption that a book is a “reliable” copy of the information it advertises is not an unquestionable part of print culture, book historian Adrian Johns contends, but rather a belief that was deliberately constructed over time — a construction exposed by acts such as piracy that made it difficult to gauge the trustworthiness of a text’s contents (1-5). “What could one know in such a realm,” he queries, “and how could one know it?” (5). While Johns’s history in The Nature of the Book focuses on unauthorized printing in early modern England, Waldrop is interested in multiple practices by which the structure of a seemingly fixed printed book can be altered or recontextualized and in the resulting effect on an epistemology of reading. Beyond the underlying humor of a new Key published by an author whose initials are also R. W., Waldrop’s mix of borrowed structural devices with acknowledged and unacknowledged revisions presents the book form as a contested space, the significance of whose organization can always be reinterpreted.

Waldrop begins to reframe Williams’s book format with her facsimile of the title page from an 1827 edition of his text. His name and New England residence, as well as the printer’s name and the date and place of the book’s publication, would have situated and authorized the book for its contemporary audience. Waldrop’s caption for the facsimile, however, underscores the status of his book as an archival document, its information reassembled in the “Collections of the Rhode-Island Historical Society,” and notes that permission for reproducing the text must be obtained from a source other than the original author or publisher (xii). The new publication of a historical source and the minor formatting changes from the 1643 title page might go unnoticed at first. But as a preface to Waldrop’s more dramatic transformation of Williams’s book, they prompt questions about who controls the dissemination of any “print / worthy” text (17). She develops the point in her introductory remarks about the politics behind the late-eighteenth-century publication of extracts from Williams’s Key. The texts deleted much of his commentary, especially his criticism of the English settlers, turning his work into a purely “utilitarian guide to customs and vocabulary” (xix). Her description brings out the irony of altering a book’s information in the ostensible interest of making the presentation of the data more reader-friendly. Waldrop’s assessment of these prior texts is already mediated as she echoes the editorial remarks in yet another version of A Key, the 1973 volume edited by John J. Teunissen and Evelyn J. Hinz. The implicit challenge to the audience is to decide whose authority, if any, can be trusted to (re)produce the definitive reading edition of Williams’s book.

Even without the problems of overt revisions or competing editions, Waldrop suggests, a reprint might lose the time-dependent information formats in a book. Her simple decision not to modernize the spelling of the borrowed chapter titles produces, in Pierre Menard style, a wholly different effect than that of the original source. The titles refocus attention from expectations about the chapters’ contents to the archaic nature of their own wording; headings that originally evoked motifs of new information or change (e.g., “Of Discourse and Newes” and “Of Travell” [17, 23]) now remind Waldrop’s readers that they are looking at diction from three and a half centuries ago, “living in translation…at arm’s length” from Williams’s subject of study as the “message, slowed down by change of climate, becomes obsolete” (17). The rhetoric of obsolescence also hints at the difficulty of finding current sources to check the accuracy of the translations Williams outlines. When Waldrop remarks that contemporary tribe members have consulted Williams’s Key to choose Narragansett names because their language is no longer spoken (xxii), she emphasizes his book’s conflicting roles as an authoritative source and as a copy, a print approximation that cannot be readily verified, however widely it may be reproduced.

“Tidings on Condition”: Waldrop’s Chapter Transformations

If readers cannot necessarily gauge the reliability of a book’s information, what are the internal formats that create the impression of having easy access to trustworthy data? Waldrop moves from scrutinizing the informational contract of a book’s introductory material to the details of its chapter outlines and page layouts. Contrast the two authors’ versions of chapter 2, entitled “Of Eating and Entertainment,” as Waldrop turns Williams’s orderly layout into her own food “for thought” about what presentations can or cannot be consumed easily in a book format (5). Williams’s chapter opens with a vocabulary list, each line divided into a Narragansett term or sentence at the left and the translation at the right. Waldrop distorts his translation structure, undercutting the reader’s ability to distinguish between the foreign and the familiar by scattering informational “elements” from different contexts across her page (see fig. 1). How does the reader begin to make meaningful order of that page space? Her observation paragraph precedes the word list here as if promising an interpretive frame, but there is no gloss even for the words from Williams included within the passage itself. The boldface type, instead of drawing attention to important points, accentuates the impression of information that has not been fully assimilated into the frame text. The one Narragansett term remains doubly opaque; without Williams’s lineation, it is not clear that “Red Copper Kettle” is the translation of “Mishquockuk,” nor where the two boldface entries with their closing punctuation fit into the list of unpunctuated modern compound terms following the implied “food” (5). With page structures that refuse to clarify their information categories, the book’s promise of “words…fit to eat” never leads to a master key to decipher all the codes (5).


Fig. 1. Page 5 of A Key into the Language of America by Rosmarie Waldrop, copyright 1994 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.


In addition to the disjointed page formats, the argumentation itself turns information into “noise” (4) from the very excess of its claims. Like Williams’s text, Waldrop’s book provides didactic points, but hers are spliced together from so many theses in the two Keys that it resembles what Christian Bök has described in his own book art as “a route composed of nothing / but detours” (n. pag.). [6] The background for Waldrop’s digressive route in chapter 2 begins with Williams’s comment that “Indian corne…is a dish exceeding wholesome for the English bodies” (101). The food imagery is part of his moral that the Narragansetts could serve as a model of temperance and generosity for the colonists, and yet at the same time he describes himself as an Elijah-like figure in the “wildernesse” being “fed” by “These Ravens,” he also indirectly suggests the tribe’s need for a man of God to convert them (105).

Waldrop’s chapter argument fractures itself into simultaneous responses to different parts of this message. The opening paragraph seems to satirize Puritan theology in the unexpected, paradoxical description of the corn “boiled with free will and predestination,” and she reduces Williams from being fed by ravens to eating “crow” for the religious bias in his accounts of the Narragansetts (see fig. 1). Waldrop’s rhetoric of “devouring” language and lands, moreover, evokes other images of invading “white bodies” and “Unsuccessful” uprisings (5) that ironize in retrospect Williams’s goal of promoting communication between the tribe and the settlers. The passing reference to “wives” (5), in turn, opens a new line of questioning, anticipating Waldrop’s critical scrutiny of past and present gender roles. She inserts an extra section in the second page of this and every chapter: a centuries-spanning “narrative…in the voice of a young woman, ambivalent about her sex and position among the conquerors” and fully aware that “conquered” cultures are troped as feminized (xxiii, xx). In chapter 2, the narrator’s description of her early “educationin search of the heroic” leads only to the concluding poem’s image of female bodies as commodities to be appraised and consumed: “all flesh considered / as a value” (6). If the reader is hard pressed to extract a single lesson from these overlapping critiques, the confusion is deliberate. By adding new divisions and by refusing to provide the stages of a discrete counterargument, Waldrop emphasizes the interpretive constraints of any one outline and the conclusions derived from its organization; the chapters of her revisionist history keep their own premises open for redirection.

Broken Frames and Scattered Lists

Waldrop’s language play continues the process of strategic digression. While the parodic logic, syntactic games, and rapid shifts in subject of her previous palimpsests have been well studied, [7] she uses these techniques in A Key to reorganize all the linguistic cues within its section divisions and to break down the information barriers among chapters. Chapter 18, “Of the Sea,” vividly exemplifies the disruption of ordering devices as she takes her own “hatchet” to Williams’s connections (see fig. 2). The first line of the prose poem offers no description of the titular sea beyond the fragments “A site of passage, of dreadful to move on, of depth between,” in which the prepositional phrases fail to specify the origin or destination of a journey (37). Instead of Williams’s expository sentences, her syntax outlines information that is never delivered. She presents a comparison in “Close resemblance” without clarifying the details being compared or offers choices whose contrasts are equally ambiguous: “long neighborhood or early development” (37). As the pun on “all at sea” implies, the paragraph is organized to induce the “bewildered” sense of being “drowned” in an unfamiliar, “overwhelming” set of syntactic cues (37).


Fig. 2. Page 37 of A Key into the Language of America by Rosmarie Waldrop, copyright 1994 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

With this degree of interpretive difficulty, Waldrop’s reader might turn from sentences to words as the smallest semantic units of the book. Instead of Williams’s thematically connected word lists, however, her lists defy semantic classification. To draw out the “depth between” linguistic “surface[s]” in chapter 18, she assembles terms linked chiefly by the fact that they form words or compounds when combined with the initial three letters “sea” (see fig. 2). Either one gives up on a subject category for a list that includes “[séa]nce” and “[sea] cucumber” or else considers multiple possible relations among the different terms while acknowledging the arbitrariness of any temporary ordering (37). One could read a word in dialogue with the chapter term, transforming the domestic space of a “bed” into a geological formation in “[sea]bed” (37), or could treat the lists as independent poems. The reader’s desire to figure out the relation between words, for instance, is mockingly reflected here in the letter groups of “mstress” and “son” that suggest a family unit of mistress and son (37).

Even beyond the specific lists, the attempt to single out theme words for a section ultimately undermines the divisions among chapters as Waldrop turns her Key into a dictionary of deferrals. She sometimes inserts entries from one of Williams’s chapters into a different theme chapter in her Key, and her own central images of coinage, tongue, water, and skin—terms that seem most directly connected to specific chapter motifs—are also the ones whose contextual definitions are scattered broadly across chapters, creating alternating impressions of superfluity and contradiction. There are so many early allusions to the “coining of new words” (5) and to bodies as sexual currency that the overview of these motifs in the chapter on “Coyne” seems belated (49-50). For other words, the chapter contexts purposely clash with each other. She juxtaposes chapter 14’s references to “skin” color and “racial discrimination (30) with the images of characters “shedding skin” in chapter 10 (21) as if contesting stereotyped identifications; the book’s later portrayal of “unidentical skins” may refer to either the differences between lovers or the subjective perception of a single body (see fig. 3). The result of these shifts in information exchange in A Key is that the book’s semantic subdivisions are visible chiefly when they are being violated.

The Non-Sense of an Ending

The transgression of information boundaries is nowhere more evident than in Waldrop’s satiric revisions of Williams’s thematic and formal closure. In the book as a whole, she keeps the progression of his chapter themes from greetings to burial customs but ends her text with a deliberately nonlinear image that resists summation: “then life could not / be understood forward / or backward” (66). The contrast with Williams is just as pointed in the concluding poems in other chapters of their Keys. His rhyming quatrains are miniature sermons as in this excerpt from the verse in chapter 18:

I have in Europes ships, oft been
In King of terrours hand;
When all have cri’d, Now, now we sinck,
Yet God brought safe to land. (Williams 179)

His conclusion tightly structures the sea chapter’s information, reminding readers that the details should be interpreted more in light of the “Power of God” (179) than of human ingenuity in seafaring lest they miss the point of the providence behind Williams’s own New World mission. Waldrop’s poem, however, offers “dark thoughts” rather than enlightenment, cautioning readers that they are likely to find a premise that “holds / no water” in its indeterminate, unpunctuated fragments (see fig. 3). Her section celebrates abstract images of flux in “exchange” and “displacement” (38) that question the stability of the language in which one might make any definitive assertion. “[T]ense” may be a noun or an adjective here, and the chapter term “sea” doubles homonymically as a verb in the allusion to what “swimmers see” after immersion, while the descriptions point to something outside their imagery with the recurring preposition “beyond” (38).


Fig. 3. Page 38 of A Key into the Language of America by Rosmarie Waldrop, copyright 1994 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

For all the puns on vision, what Waldrop’s chapter conclusions tend to foreground is white space. The copious white space around the earlier lists and the short poetic lines leads into the blank space at the end of each chapter. Her passages anticipate this transition with their images of whiteness, pallor, and absence. These references qualify her often-cited description of the “palimpsest” as an information-rich composition, a model of plenitude and presence in which the “blank page is not blank” because “No text has one single author” (“Form and Discontent” 61). [8] Despite all the authors who crowd these pages — Williams, Michel Fardoulis-Lagrange, Claire Needell, and Howe [9] — the blank spaces in A Key interrupt the information transmission with textual lacunae that do not signify even as palimpsestic traces. Alongside the attempts to recover the “traces of the push across this continent” (60) — the conquests and the enduring hate language in slurs such as “red skin” (26) — Waldrop’s lacunae remind readers of what cannot be “read” at all, of the blind spots and failed translations in projects of textual and historical recovery. Critics have discussed the motif of gaps and missing centers in her books as a strategy of disrupting authoritarian narratives (Evans 287), as an acknowledgment of the fallacies in historical records (Freitag 452 and Clippinger 199), or as a symbol of liminal spaces that can lead to new ways of perceiving the self and the world (Keller 393).

A Book-Poetics of Limits

But there is little discussion of those gaps as part of Waldrop’s retheorization of the book itself. The thematic and stylistic play with white space, for example, recalls the blanks in Stéphane Mallarmé’s book-poetics; she analyzes his approaches to silence as spiritualized acts of “negation” revealing the limits of thought and language (Against Language? 17-18). In particular, Waldrop’s Key adapts the gendered imagery of book thresholds and limits in his critique of conventional reading techniques. When Mallarmé describes the white spaces of the book form revealing the “mystery” of the pages’ lettering, he warns readers not to view the “virginal foldings of the book” only as borders to be penetrated to gain “possession” of the text (82, 83). Waldrop’s Key resists such forcible appropriation with its consciously “difficult unfolding” (16). Her narrator gives the reader hints of “parts called private and more or less so,” with the “flesh close up” — like the space of the chapter’s conclusion — unreadably “pale,” but here the pallor terrifie[s]” rather than entices the reader/“lover” (see fig. 3). In a later chapter, she imagines the body as text darkening completely to “a dead end” that the lover will abandon for more familiar structures (60). As the blurring of dark and white imagery suggests, both the printed and unprinted book spaces in A Key can contribute to a sense of depleted meanings as Waldrop replaces Mallarmé’s vision of richly significant typography with her own misleading shifts in type.

Following a line of influence from Mallarmé, the blanks, interruptions, and wounded bodies throughout A Key are even closer to the book metaphors of Edmond Jabès. To quote from Waldrop’s translation of The Book of Questions: “‘So the empty space between two pages or two works is the place and non-place where our limits of ink and screams are set up and broken down’” (Jabès 381). In Jabès’s post-Holocaust text, the book is a form that both marks the failure of language to articulate catastrophic loss and yet continually revises the rules of expression in its interpretive word play and cross-generic experiments. [10] That description might well characterize Waldrop’s goals in A Key. I have argued that Waldrop juxtaposes a history of betrayed treaties with a reverse strategy in her own text: she exposes the thematic and formal “platitudes” (54), “exaggerations” (23), and “Discrepanc[ies]” (41) in her outlines, declaring the book “print / worthy” precisely because it advertises its artifice: “Some Body Hath Made This Lie” (17). But her provisional structures do more than simply reveal the limits of a specific type of book presentation. They invite readers to speculate about a book whose most basic information remains in flux, and if that text cannot be fully realized within a single material format, it nevertheless suggests new directions for a book-poetics to develop.

That is the reason why Waldrop’s text offers such diverse answers to the question posed by the stolen title: to what data is this new text a key? Taken to its extreme form, her project outlines a book-poetics of absence without a fixed author-function, the book reduced to an empty frame whose title and layout can be adapted to the content, or lack of content, desired by each new occupant. Yet her play with textual editions also suggests that the frame itself is unstable, prompting readers to imagine a book composed as an ongoing collage of different formats and print incarnations of its information. This might include not only manuscript drafts [11] but also fragments of competing publication copies, reprints, excerpts, and translations all vying for authority. And in that contested authority, where would one place a book form based on acts of piracy that deliberately misrepresents its promised contents, a text that simultaneously copies too much information and too little? Poised between the prospect of purely deceitful or absent forms (a “night too long ago for architecture” [7]) and an excess of possible structures (“High surface motion, endless, endless” [37]), Waldrop makes sure that the “complex variables” (55) in her own Key never permit an absolute or conclusive book. Of all the text’s information, the brief warning label “Liable to sudden deviation” remains the most reliable signpost for the reader caught in the playful “ambush” of the book’s evolving forms (59).

I would like to thank Rosmarie Waldrop for her correspondence about the source texts for A Key into the Language of America, and I wish to express my gratitude for a grant from the University of South Carolina Research and Productive Scholarship Fund that enabled the completion of this article.


[1] Waldrop has created numerous palimpsests of her own, including The Reproduction of Profiles (1987) and Lawn of Excluded Middle (1993). Shorter American Memory (1988), as Kornelia Freitag notes, borrows the language of the source book and also models most of its chapter titles on the text’s headings (452), but it does not reproduce the book conventions and chapter structures as systematically as in A Key into the Language of America.

[2] “Book-poems” offer an alternative to the premise of the book as an informational instrument; they distort the conventions of prefaces, indices, chapter divisions, pagination, illustrations, and syntax that enable the reader to process textual data. For recent examples of this genre, see the book art of Steve McCaffery, bpNichol, Johanna Drucker, Darren Wershler-Henry, and Christian Bök.

[3] His opening letter emphasizes the distinctiveness of the book’s information and the urgency of its publication: “I Present you with a Key; I have not heard of the like, yet framed, since it pleased God to bring that mighty Continent of America to light,” a guide composed after having “been importun’d by worthy friends, of all sorts, to afford them some helps this way” (83). All quotations from Williams are taken from the 1973 text of A Key into the Language of America, edited by John J. Teunissen and Evelyn J. Hinz, and are used with the permission of Wayne State University Press.

[4]  Adapting Michael Davidson's concept of the "palimtext" that shows
the traces of its compositional intertextuality (Ghostlier Demarcations
9), Lynn Keller addresses Waldrop's use of source texts to provide
"limits that...prove generative in themselves and at the same time
invite transgression and transformation" ("Fields" 381, 386). In
"'Nothing, for a Woman, is Worth Trying': A Key into the Rules of
Rosmarie Waldrop's Experimentalism" (in We Who Love to Be Astonished:
Experimental Women's Writing and Performance Poetics, eds. Laura Hinton
and Cynthia Hogue, 2002. 103-115), an essay that appeared as my article
was completed, Keller analyzes Waldrop's rewriting of Williams's book as
part of the conflict between "imposed orders" and "disruption" or
"absence" in the poet's texts (103-04), examining thematic, formal, and
copying discrepancies between the two Keys. Both of these excellent
essays focus on the feminist implications of reworking borrowed
propositions, terms, and histories, although they do not explore the
significance of Waldrop's challenges to book conventions specifically.

[5] Unless otherwise noted, all quotations from Rosmarie Waldrop are from A Key into the Language of America, used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

[6] By linking this description to the metaphor of a fractal in Crystallography, Bök suggests a poetics of “digressions” and “redundancy” that remains equally complex at each new level of scrutiny (n. pag.).

[7] Marjorie Perloff uses Waldrop’s own term, “‘grammatical terror,’” to describe the “mock causality,” syntactic confusion, and intertextuality of The Reproduction of Profiles (Wittgenstein’s Ladder 210, 209); she also discusses the visual page art and sound play in the “‘nonsentences’” of Lawn of Excluded Middle (Poetry On and Off the Page 159-163). Jonathan Monroe analyzes Waldrop’s “‘syntextural’” poetics, noting among other devices in her prose poetry the “paratactic effects within a predominantly hypotactic frame,” the abrupt changes in tone and diction, the digressive exposition, and the deconstruction of binaries (133-35). See too Waldrop’s analysis of the “semantic slidings” and interplay between subject and object positions in her compositions (“Alarms and Excursions” 59, 61, 64-5).

[8] n a conversation with Joan Retallack published in Contemporary Literature, Waldrop herself revises the palimpsest imagery: “But if there’s the palimpsest then why am I anxious about the white space?” (368). She rephrases the discussion in images of linguistic “plenitude almost as large, almost as unlimited and full of possibilities as emptiness” (368).

[9] Waldrop includes language from Needell’s Not a Balancing Act and Fardoulis-Lagrange’s Le texte inconnu and pays tribute to Howe’s palimpsests of early American texts in altered phrases such as “articulation of sound forms in waiting” (18).

[10] Waldrop analyzes the structural experimentation of Jabès’s books, in which narratives can develop solely in the form of commentary, and she notes his excessive use of devices such as metaphor in a way that “paradoxically undermines and empties itself” to disrupt signification (“Signs and Wonderings” 352-54).

[11] See too Davidson’s discussion of reading the poetic text as archive in his study of the manuscript pages of George Oppen (64-78).  

Works Cited

Bök, Christian. Crystallography. Toronto: Coach House, 1994. N. pag.

Clippinger, David. “Between the Gaps, the Silence and the Rubble: Susan Howe, Rosmarie Waldrop, and (Another) Pound Era.” Denver Quarterly 36.1-2 (2001): 189-205.

Davidson, Michael. Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material Word. Berkeley: U of California P, 1997.

Evans, Steven R. “Rosmarie Waldrop.” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Fifth Ser. Vol.169. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996. 284-96.

Freitag, Kornelia. “Decomposing American History.” The Construction and Contestation of American Cultures and Identities in the Early National Period. Ed. Udo J. Hebel. Heidelberg, Germany: C. Winter, 1999: 443-59.

Jabès, Edmond. The Book of Questions. Vol. 1. Trans. Rosmarie Waldrop. Hanover: Wesleyan UP-UP of New England, 1991.

Johns, Adrian. The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998.

Keller, Lynn. “‘Fields of Pattern-Bounded Unpredictability’: Recent Palimptexts by Rosmarie Waldrop and Joan Retallack.” Contemporary Literature 42.2 (2001): 376-412.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. “The Book: A Spiritual Instrument.” Trans. Bradford Cook. Selected Poetry and Prose. Ed. Mary Ann Caws. New York: New Directions, 1982. 80-84.

Monroe, Jonathan. “Syntextural Investigations.” Diacritics 26.3-4 (1996): 126-41.

Perloff, Marjorie. Poetry On and Off the Page: Essays for Emergent Occasions. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1998.

_____. Wittgenstein’s Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996.

Waldrop, Rosmarie. Against Language? “Dissatisfaction with Language” as Theme and as Impulse towards Experiments in Twentieth Century Poetry. The Hague: Mouton, 1971.

_____. “Alarms and Excursions.” The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy. Ed. Charles Bernstein. New York: Roof Books, 1990. 45-72.

_____. “A Conversation with Rosmarie Waldrop.” Conducted by Joan Retallack. Contemporary Literature 40.3 (1999): 329-77.

_____. “Form and Discontent.” Diacritics 26.3-4 (1996): 54-62.

_____. “An Interview with Rosmarie Waldrop.” Conducted by Edward Foster. Talisman 6 (1991): 27-39.

_____. A Key into the Language of America. New York: New Directions, 1994.

_____. “Signs and Wonderings.” Comparative Literature 27.3 (1975): 344-354.

Williams, Roger. A Key into the Language of America. Ed. John J. Teunissen and Evelyn J. Hinz. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1973.