Strickland Stephanie 1942

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Stephanie Strickland is one of the most celebrated poets working in hypertext, a multilinear form of writing that is specifically designed to be read on a computer, often incorporating elements of multimedia (see cyberpoetry). Strickland is also a print poet, but her work is only fully realized when the digital domain is also considered. She can be seen as continuing in the postmodernist tradition, as she is fascinated by the blurring of boundaries between different genres of writing as well as different modes of thought. Moreover her work incorporates the ideas of science and mathematics and is decidedly feminist in theme (see FEMALE VOICE, FEMALE LANGUAGE).

Strickland was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. In 1978 she received an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.S. in 1984 from the Pratt Institute. Her first book, Beyond This Silence, was published in 1988, the same year she received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She won the Brittingham Prize (1993) for The Red Virgin: A Poem of Simone Weil. True North garnered her the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award of the Poetry Society of America (1996), the Ernest Sandeen Poetry Prize (1997), and the Salt Hill Hypertext Prize (1998) for the poem's hypertext version. She received the Boston Book Review prize and Best of the Net Poetry Award for Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot in 1999, and in 2000 the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for "V:The Wave Son.nets."

Like many writers working in hypertext, Strickland explores the larger implications of the form. In To Be Here as Stone Is (1999), she makes a case for the relativity and provisionality of knowledge best represented in hypertext as a guiding principle of the universe: "Objects are answers," she writes, though the natural tendency of the cosmos is toward change. Anything that appears permanent—such as "extinguished starlight"— is an illusion, though we seek these isolated bits of permanence out of our "persistent reverence for error." This is the central tension of much of Strickland's work:

Human knowledge is limited and faulty, but it is all we have to make sense of experience.

Along similar lines, Strickland examines the hyper-textual reading experience in Errand upon Which We Came (2001), written in collaboration with influential hypertext writer M. D. Coverley. on the first page, Strickland invites her readers to skip any parts of the poem he or she wants, adding, "of course, it can be read straight through, but this is not a better reading, not a better life." Images of frogs and butterflies play heavily in the poem, as they move erratically (as the reader might) and live in more than one element during their life cycles. Here reading becomes organic and unpredictable, but Strickland's text is in constant flux as well, since each page gives way to the next after a certain amount of time. The reader may not "get anywhere" or take away any hard, stable truths, but, for Strickland, the reading is itself the point. She gives the reader a glimpse into her own restlessly inquisitive mind.


Inez. Colette. "'Beyond This Silence'—Strickland, S." Prairie

Schooner 62.2 (1988): 134-136. Kaufman, Ellen. Review. Library Journal (November 15, 1981): 86.

Muratori, Fred. "Ambiguity Isn't What It Used to Be—or Is It?" Georgia Review 52.1 (spring 1998): 142-160.

Matthew Purdy

THE STRUCTURE OF RIME ROBERT DUNCAN (1960) Emerging out of the modernist tradition of the long poem (see long and serial poetry), Robert duncans The Structure of Rime is a wide-ranging exploration of linguistic and material correspondences. This series of poems is influenced by romantic writers, such as William Blake and Samuel Taylor Coleridge; modernist long poems, such as Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, Ezra pounds cantos, and h. D.s Trilogy (see modernism); and, later, by Jack spicers development of the serial poem. Duncan, however, distinguishes himself by his melding of tradition with the experimental, the ordinary with the mystical. As he writes early on in "Pages from a Notebook," "I don't seek a synthesis, but a melee."

The Structure of Rime first appears in The Opening of the Field (1960) as one of several open-ended sequences (including PASSAGES). Interspersed throughout later books (I to XIII appear in Opening of the Field, 1960; XIV to XXI appear in Roots and Branches, 1964; XXII to XVI appear in Bending the Bow, 1968; and XXVII to XVIII, as well as "structure of Rime: Of the Five Songs," appear in Groundwork, 1984 and 1987), these poems are connected to each other only insofar as they are generally prose pieces concerned with the larger themes of form and meaning. otherwise they pick up on the themes and motifs of the surrounding poems while also commenting on these same themes and motifs.

The word rime as defined by Duncan, is either "form" and "rhythm" or "clearing" and "opening." The speaker in "The Structure of Rime I" introduces himself as both master and servant to language ("speak! For I name myself your master, who come to serve") before going on to discover, in the course of the poem, that while language has the power to shape the way things are, the way things are also shapes the language and the writer ("In the feet that measure the dance of my pages I hear cosmic intoxications of the man I will be"). In this way, then, Duncan establishes himself as both romantic and modernist, concerned with form as much as formlessness, order as much as chaos. As he goes on to write in "The Structure of Rime II:" "'What of the Structure of Rime' I asked. / An absolute scale of resemblance and disresemblance establishes measures that are music in the actual world." It is important to note that although these first two poems are also indicative of a mystical vision of the world and a belief in the poet as seer that is evident throughout much of The Structure of Rime, Duncan does not endorse transcendence. Rather he invokes such figures as Mnemosyne (the goddess of memory), Jacob, and Christ to point toward his belief in the presence and power of myth in our everyday lives.


Davidson, Michael. "Cave of Resemblances, Cave of Rimes: Tradition and Repetition in Robert Duncan." In Conversant Essays: Contemporary Poets on Poetry Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990, pp. 282-293. Johnson, Mark Andrew. Robert Duncan. Boston: Twayne, 1988.

Lori Emerson

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