women dirty concrete poets

I would be blind indeed if I didn’t notice or acknowledge the fact that these dirty concrete/typewriter poets – Steve McCaffery, bpNichol, bill bissett, John Riddell – I’ve been writing about here and in my book project are all men…and nearly all them reference or acknowledge other like-minded men (though of course not always – I gather McCaffery has written on Beth Learn). I’m not entirely sure whether it’s my own unintentional bias. But I can say for sure that in many of the collections of typewriter/dirty concrete poetry I’ve looked at the vast majority of contributors are men. I asked Judith Copithorne, who has written a small book of dirty concrete called Horizon, to speculate on the absence of women and she replied to me something to the effect that back in those days, dirty concrete was considered pretty ‘out there’ and women were already having a hard enough time getting noticed for less ‘out there’ work.

However, thanks entirely to the assistance of Darren Wershler and Judith Copithorne, below is a short list of women from Canada and the U.K. who are or were dirty concrete poets. Perhaps this can serve as a kind of bookmark to myself and others about the archaeological research and writing that has yet to be done on these women:

  • Bettina Adler
  • Mirella Bentivoglio
  • Jennifer Books
  • Paula Claire
  • Jennifer Pike Cobbing
  • Jo Cooke
  • Judith Copithorne
  • Patricia Farrell
  • Maxine Gadd
  • Beth Learn
  • Peggy Lefler
  • Maggie O’Sullivan
  • Sylvia Ptak
  • Betty Radin
  • Rhoda Rosenfeld
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Categories: bookbound, criticism, poetry

Author:Lori Emerson

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I'm the author of Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound and co-editor of the Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media.

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2 Comments on “women dirty concrete poets”

  1. May 12, 2011 at 12:59 PM #

    Mirella Bentivoglio (Rome) contacted me in 1971 because she like me was in the catalogue of ?concrete poetry (title) exhibition, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and we have been colleagues ever since. She is a beacon to me: she’s now 89 and still forging ahead. To celebrate her 90th birthday she will have a concrete/visual poetry Exhib in the Gallery of Modern Art, Rome. She held many exhibitions of international women’s concrete/visual/sound poetry from 1970 onwards, the biggest being Materialisation of Language, Venice Beinnale 1978 (80 practitioners). She is now donating all the works we have given her to MART Rovereto and Museum of Contemporary Art Prato. They will have exhibitions and issue catalogues. Watch their websites. All good wishes Paula Claire

    • May 12, 2011 at 1:12 PM #

      Paula, thanks ever so much for your comment and this very useful information – in fact, a copy of the Materialisation of Language is waiting for me at the library right now! I’m going to rush off and get it – thank you again for your response.

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