On Genevieve Taggard:
Genevieve Taggard As a
by Julia Lisella
The essays printed here represent a variety of contemporary responses to the work of Genevieve Taggard (1894-1948), and address in very direct and pragmatic ways the work of resuscitating and locating modernist women’s careers. While Taggard found T. S. Eliot’s version of modernism misanthropic and hopeless, her own version of modernist poetics traversed a difficult field between Marxism and experimentation. Much of Taggard’s poetry might best be described as “social vision verse” with a generous sampling of private, emotionally wrought lyric in between. But several of the essays here attest to the fact that it is not only impossible but rarely useful to categorize Taggard’s attempts as either public and political or private lyric. Both impulses in Taggard’s poetry moved together to produce a strong body of work that is worth reexamining in light of the changing definitions of modernism and the scope of thought on public political poetry today. Through some fortunate act of serendipity rather than through some extra-ordinary precision of my editorship, the writers here speak to each other in startlingly compatible and companionable ways. Two essays, one by Nancy Berke, and the other by myself, are close readings of individual poems. Our readings form a larger conversation about the ways in which feminist ideas sought a place in Taggard’s poetry at a time when class concerns may have seemed more urgent to Taggard and to the American left in general. Catherine Daly and Alison Van Nyhuis contribute essays that attend to the forms in which we meet Taggard’s work today. Daly extends her review of placing out-of-print public domain texts on the web that she began with a discussion of Lola Ridge’s poems in the previous issue of How2. She describes the insights that take place when one scans, edits, and prepares a work of poetry for the web. Daly also contributes two reviews of early books by Taggard that underscore Taggard’s interest in global connections. Van Nyhuis’s essay discusses the ways in which Taggard’s interest in both public and private utterance has created a puzzle for anthology editors, but Van Nyhuis suggests it’s a challenge that should be met to give credence to a poet’s own constructed narrative of his or her work.
Bio: Julia Lisella is a poet and a Lecturer on History and Literature at Harvard University. Her first contribution to How2 was a review of Lola Ridge’s book, Firehead (1929), in the previous issue’s Readings Section. She is currently working on a book about modernism and maternity based on her dissertation, which featured a chapter on Genevieve Taggard. Her poems appear in such journals as Pleiades and Crab Orchard Review and her book reviews appear in such publications as The Women’s Review of Books and The Italian American Review. She helps edit the online journal, The Mystic River Review.