Zinnes's poetry explores issues related to the fragile human condition and its chaotic environment, particularly as these issues pertain to the international political confusion of her times. Her influences include American writers, such as Ezra pound, John ashbery, and Frank o'hara, and the French poets Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Verlaine.
Zinnes was born Victoria Harriet Fich in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. she received her doctorate in 1953 and in 1964 published her first collection of poetry, Waiting and Other Poems. Since then Zinnes has published nine more collections. In addition to poetry, Zinnes has published two short story collections, Lover (1989) and The Radiant Absurdity of Desire (1998) and has translated poems by Jacques Prevert (Blood and Feathers ). Zinnes has also been an influential literary and art critic, and her works on literary and visual arts are often linked, as in her book Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts (1980).
In Zinnes's poetry the reader notes the fusion of eclectic intellectual interests. Zinnes's husband was a professor of physics, and her bent for the humanities is complemented by an understanding and appreciation of math and science. "Wily," the first poem in My, Haven't the Flowers Been (1995), begins, "Time is full of wiles and mathematics. Doesn't time equal mathematics / or perhaps the other way round?" Two of her collections, Book of Ten (1981) and Book of Twenty (1992), use numeric systems as their organizing principle.
Zinnes's poetic studies of chaos and order portray systems as simultaneously arbitrary, inherent, and necessary. As Zinnes states in the opening of Entropisms (1978), "To put it simply: the physical universe is entropic. Man's imagination is antientropic."
Art is another interest highlighted in Zinnes's poetry. Marcel Duchamp, in particular, influences both her form and content. Yet, although Zinnes's interests in art and science are pronounced, they are manifestations of a broader philosophical inquiry into the nature of life, and, finally, it is language which is her primary concern.
Parisi, Joseph. "Harriet Zinnes." In Contemporary Poets, 4th ed, edited by James Vinsonand and D. L. Kirkpatrick. New York: St. Martin's, 1985, pp. 960-961.
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