Revising the Sacred: Embodied Spiritual Encounters in the Poetry of Alicia Ostriker, Judy Grahn, Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde and Susan Howe

Jill M Neziri, Fordham University


In the late 20th century, second wave feminism emerged as an important political and literary movement. Although initially presenting a somewhat unified front, the movement quickly became characterized by different strands of feminist thinking, as various individuals and groups complicated understandings of class, race, sexuality and identity. In "Revising the Sacred," I examine the development of feminist thought and practice in the second half of the twentieth century by looking at the work of American women poets from the 1970s to the early 2000s. While acknowledging the multiple feminisms that have evolved out of the debates of the last fifty years, my project shows that a common interest in what I call "revising the sacred" connects the writings of diverse feminist poets. I use the phrase "revising the sacred" to refer to the ways in which women poets rewrite spiritual beliefs and traditions and thus address feminist concerns regarding cultural politics. I have found that these rewritings occur in a number of literary and aesthetic movements, including Black Arts, Chicana feminism and Language poetry. My project argues that in spite of the seeming differences produced by feminist emphases on issues of class, gender, race and identity, a common poetic practice that centers around understandings of spirituality and the sacred traverses the diverse landscape of late twentieth century politics and literature. Specifically, I look at the ways in which Alicia Ostriker, Judy Grahn, Gloria Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde and Susan Howe forge connections between the body and the sacred in order to valorize women's physical experiences. Locating this type of revisionism as an outgrowth of a larger, cultural embrace of the spiritual that occurred during the late 1960s, I contextualize the work of each poet within her unique socio-cultural experiences while at the same time arguing that these authors can and should be read together. Ultimately, I show how all of these writers refuse to accept the traditional mind/body, spiritual/physical divide and craft revisionist poetry that challenges literary conventions through formal innovations, allowing each poet to assert her unique identity while at the same time engaging in a cohesive feminist practice. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Women's Studies|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Neziri, Jill M, "Revising the Sacred: Embodied Spiritual Encounters in the Poetry of Alicia Ostriker, Judy Grahn, Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde and Susan Howe" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3512386.