Rachel Blau DuPlessis Papers

January 23, 2020

By Nancy Kuhl

The Beinecke Library is pleased to announce a newly acquired collection: the papers of Rachel Blau DuPlessis. DuPlessis is a contemporary American poet, literary critic, and feminist writer. She is well known for her own poetic work, as well as her scholarship of H.D., Ezra Pound, and George Oppen. The collection documents DuPlessis’s work as a poet-critic through 2016, and includes her writings, journals, professional materials, manuscripts, and extensive correspondence. The collection is open for research; a guide and finding aid can be found online here: Rachel Blau DuPlessis Papers YCAL MSS 1188

DuPlessis was born and educated in New York. She studied at Barnard College as an undergraduate, and earned an MA and PhD from Columbia University. She went on to teach literature and creative writing at Temple University until her retirement in 2011. She is a prolific feminist writer, linking feminist thought with critical theory in books like Writing Beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth-Century Women Writers (1985) and in influential essays on gender and poetics in the trilogy: The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist Practice, (1990, 2006), Blue Studios: Poetry and Its Cultural Work (2006), and Purple Passages: Pound, Eliot, Zukofsky, Olson, Creeley and the Ends of Patriarchal Poetry (2012). She has also worked as an editor, putting together landmark collections on H.D., and objectivist poets, as well as editing the selected letters of George Oppen. The Beinecke’s collection includes research materials and drafts for much of DuPlessis’ critical and editorial work.

As a well-known and celebrated poet, DuPlessis has engaged on many projects including early explorations in mythopoesis (Medusa, Eurydice) and women’s literary history via poems. Her major work, begun in 1986 and finished in 2012, is a long poem entitled Drafts. This poetic project, published in installments, explores the continuing nature of revision and thought. The Library’s new collection includes DuPlessis’ manuscripts for Drafts. Some of these files include descriptions of the archival documents added by DuPlessis at the time her archive was being organized, synthesizing the work inside.

Since her retirement DuPlessis has taught and participated in fellowships worldwide. Over the course of her career she has gained many honors including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize, Temple University’s Creative Achievement Award, and grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Fund for Poetry. Her collection at the Beinecke is a focused resource for scholarship on modern poetry and literary criticism. It contains correspondence with Kathleen Fraser, Beverly Dahlen, Frances Jaffer (all of the HOW(ever) formation), Barbara Guest, Susan Howe, Peter and Meredith Quartermain, Auxémery (French translator of Drafts) and numerous others. Her papers join the Beinecke’s extensive collection of papers by contemporary American poets including Gerrit LansingCharles BernsteinJames Laughlin, and Larry Goodell. The collection can be found under call number YCAL MSS 1188.