trout's poetry is renowned for its often sparse lyricism and sharp social observation. Although she is a key member of the San Francisco poetry community from which the language school emerged, Armantrout is suspicious of the term language-oriented, because, as she explains, "it seems to imply division between language and experience, thought and feeling, inner and outer" ("Why" 546). Influenced by George oppen, she agrees with him that "however elusive, sincerity is the measure and goal of the poem" ("Interview" 20). An ethical approach is apparent in her poetic practice, which consistently draws the reader to a heightened awareness of the dominant social structures underlying his or her own perceptions. Armantrout's work is also informed by a feminist poetics that deconstructs the autonomous and unified subject still found in much mainstream verse.
Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California, and grew up in San Diego. In 1989 she received a California Arts Council Fellowship and in 1993 the Fund for Poetry Award. She has coordinated the New Writing series at the University of California at San Diego and coedited the Archive Newsletter. Armantrout has published eight collections of poetry and an autobiography, True (1998).
Armantrout often explores aspects of the poem commonly overlooked. With six parts connected only through the title, "Tone" (1986) demonstrates how the way in which something is spoken may constitute its meaning. In "Poetic Silence," Armantrout argues that prose poems composed of nonnarrative declarative sentences (typifying much Language writing) leave little room for the experience of silence. Silence, she believes, encourages further questions to arise in a poem and may even enable the unthinkable and conceptually paradoxical. Silence may be accommodated by ending a poem abruptly or unexpectedly. It may be created through "extremely tenuous connections between parts of a poem" or through ellipsis, self-contradiction, and retraction (34). Armantrout further notes that she "may deliberately create the effect of inconsequence" or place "the existent in perceptible relation to the non-existent, the absent or the outside" (34-35).
A number of these strategies can be found in the 1978 poem "view" ("Not the city lights. We want / — the moon—"). Through starting with a negative proposition, Armantrout emphasizes the lack that sparks desire. The Moon itself is elliptic, both in the sky (rendered less clear by the haze of city lights) and on the page (separated from the rest of the poem by the dashes that surround it). The poem reinforces a sense of cliché through the repetition of the phrase the moon, while considering philosophically the Moon's existence. The unexpected last line, "none of our doing!," undermines the subject as authorizing an authoritative source of reality.
The poem is also an example of Armantrout's predilection for irony, which she believes "marks the consciousness of dissonance" ("Irony" 674). In other works, she makes use of masquerade to dissemble categorical approaches, or what she calls the "morbid glamor of the singular" (Necromance 7).
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