Alicia ostriker stands in the company of feminist poet/critics, including Adrienne rich, Audre lorde, and Marge piercy, who helped create—and were influenced by—the United States feminist movement (see female voice, female language). Ostriker's critical and poetic contributions to American letters are a significant record of an observant, thinking, politically aware woman who examines her experiences in light of the political and social circumstances that surround her. A hallmark of ostriker's work is her ability to mix personal reflection with political observation. A particularly powerful example of this is The Mother/Child Papers (1980), which juxtaposes poems about her family, particularly the birth of her son, with political commentary on the Vietnam War.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Ostriker grew up in Manhattan housing projects in a working-class Jewish family. Graduating with a B.A. in English from Brandeis University in 1959, Ostriker continued her education at the University of Wisconsin, earning an M.A. (1961) and a Ph.D. (1964). Ostriker has been a professor at Rutgers University since 1965. The author of nine volumes of poetry, two significant works of feminist literary criticism (Writing like a Woman  and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America ), two groundbreaking works of Biblical analysis, and several other works of criticism, ostriker is the winner of numerous honors and awards, including, for her 1986 collection, The Imaginary Lover, the William Carlos williams Award of the Poetry Society of America and, for her 1996 The Crack in Everything, the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State University Poetry Center Award.
Reflecting on her experience as a Jewish-American woman of the 20th century, Ostriker's poetry is accessible, conversational in tone, and quick to combine cultural or spiritual critique with observations of her immediate surroundings. In A Woman under the Surface (1982), many of the poems, including "The Waiting Room" and "The Exchange," look at women's experiences, the former examining "the fears of the betrayal / Of our bodies" and the latter exploring anger, revenge, and freedom from women's roles. Later works, less formal than her first, continue these themes, examining motherhood, relationships, art, religion, and healing, among other issues, from an unabashedly political and feminist perspective. Especially significant is the final section of The Crack in Everything (1996), "The Mastectomy Poems," which chronicle her treatment for breast cancer. Ostriker's ability to artfully enhance her observations of life with insightful political and social critique is a consistent feature of her work.
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