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The Dark End of the Street

The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry

Maria Damon
Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    The Dark End of the Street
    Book Description:

    Damon foregrounds a number of modern American poets work and lives in order to argue that the American avant-garde is located in the experimental literary works of social “outsiders.” Discussed is the work of Black/Jewish surrealist street poet Bob Kaufman, Boston-Brahmin Robert Lowell and three teenaged women writing from a South Boston housing project, pre-Stonewall gay poets Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan, and Jewish lesbian-in-exile Gertrude Stein. “A work of art as well as a work of criticism. . . . Addresses important questions about art and social life, about the margins and the center, and about oppression and suppression.” --George Lipsitz

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8400-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Pre-Monitions: Definitions, Explanations, Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xxii)
  4. 1 Introductions and Interdictions
    (pp. 1-31)

    In 1967, James Carr, who was to sink into the obscurity of poverty, drugs, and mental illness, recorded the greatest version of the “greatest cheating song in soul history,” entitled “The Dark End of the Street.”¹ The mournfully triumphant ballad of a clandestine love doomed to perish upon discovery has been covered many, many times, by (among others) Aretha Franklin, Ry Cooder and his backup team Terry Evans and Al King, and most recently by the “black” Irish “saviours of soul” in the movieThe Commitments.Invoking all the power of a gospel hymn, the lover exhorts his love to...

  5. 2 “Unmeaning Jargon” / Uncanonized Beatitude: Bob Kaufman, Poet
    (pp. 32-76)

    Surrealist poet Bob Kaufman died in January of 1986. Prolific and flamboyant during the late fifties and early sixties, and again briefly productive in the seventies, he had drifted into silent obscurity by the time of his death, and died poverty-stricken and physically debilitated. He has remained, however, a revered cult figure within the somewhat circumscribed San Francisco street poetry orbit. Throughout and despite his silence, this “prince of street poetry” continued to represent Beat values: nonconformism as an all-encompassing “poetic” way of life, antiestablishment anger, scorn for material wealth and comfort, and copious drug use in the search for...

  6. 3 The Child Who Writes / The Child Who Died
    (pp. 77-141)

    In his essay “Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism’s Other,” Andreas Huyssen outlines and criticizes the division readily apprehensible from his title, familiar at this point to conscientious critics of mass culture and high art alike. In this scheme, mass-cultural consumption plays the passive, undifferentiated, exploitable, and conservative woman to the masculinist production of high art by sharply individuated and individual, iconoclastic, free-thinking men. In a myth of self-parthenogenesis, the modernist canon would define itself in clear outline against the swampy, womblike backdrop of mass-cultural anonymity.²

    Any essay that proposes to treat both Robert Lowell and three unknown teenage women writing...

  7. 4 Dirty Jokes and Angels: Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan Writing the Gay Community
    (pp. 142-201)

    In 1855, Walt Whitman, an unknown journalist of working-class origin, answered Emerson’s call for a national poet,¹ sending the latter a copy of his self-publishedLeaves of Grass,the opening essay of which quite clearly proposed Whitman himself as the poet laureate of the United States, as both its spiritual avatar and its democratic representative.² Although controversy raged aroundLeaves of Grassthroughout its many incarnations, much of this controversy stemming from the homoerotic nature of the poetry and its sexual and emotional intensity, Whitman has to a large extent achieved his goal in being considered America’s representative national poet....

  8. 5 Gertrude Stein’s Doggerel “Yiddish”: Women, Dogs, and Jews
    (pp. 202-235)

    The second epigraph, from Deleuze and Guattari’sKafka: Toward a Minor Literature,sets forth a crucial if somewhat extravagant definition of their term “becoming-animal,” a process which for them characterizes not only a typical and recurrent theme in Kafka’s short stories but also Kafka’s tortured and tortuous language use in general. Rendering the German language absurd is what they call a “burrowing” (underground) technique in which a Kafka-animal deconstructs and undermines from within the structures of an oppressor language and its corollary “major” literature. He does this in the service of the revolutionary establishment of a “minor” literature that, paradoxically,...

  9. Afterword: Closer than Close
    (pp. 236-242)

    When I wrote to Susan Johnson asking permission to use her poetry in my book, I enclosed a copy of an article in which I had already done so (using only her first initial, since I’d been unable to locate her earlier). She wrote back that she’d read the article three times over and could I explain the passage on “teenage culture... (as) selfparodic and simultaneously tremendously moving, (necessitating the) removal into hyperreality of self-dramatization (etc).” I feel permanently cured of Jamesonisms. She also enclosed two new poems inspired by parts of the essay. One, she wrote, was “the result...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 243-278)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-292)
  12. Index
    (pp. 293-303)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 304-306)