Cover image for Career moves : Olson, Creeley, Zukofsky, Berrigan, and the American avant-garde
Career moves : Olson, Creeley, Zukofsky, Berrigan, and the American avant-garde
Rifkin, Libbie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Madison : University of Wisconsin Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
viii, 172 pages ; 23 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS323.5 .R53 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



How much did "making it new" have to do with "making it"? For the four "outsider poets" considered in this book Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Louis Zukofsky, and Ted Berrigan the connection was everything. At once a social history of literary ambition in America in the fifties and sixties and a uniquely collective form of literary biography, "Career Moves" offers an intimate account of the postwar poetry underground.
Making the controversial claim that anti-Establishment poets were at least as "careerist" as their mainstream peers, Libbie Rifkin shows how the nature of these poets ambition actually defined postwar avant-garde identity. In doing so, she clarifies the complicated link between the crafting of a literary career and the defining of a literary canon. "

Author Notes

Libbie Rifkin is assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Alabama

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Rifkin (English, Univ. of Alabama) is concerned less with poetry than with "the multi-lateral space of avant-gardist identity formation." Her book is an odd compilation of materials, containing references to "positions of modified dominance," "revolutionaries," "social trajectories," and "the business of writing." The author's central argument is that postwar American anti-Establishment poets were as ambitious and career oriented as mainstream poets. Her coordinates for this discussion are Charles Olsen, Robert Creeley, Louis Zukofsky, and Ted BerriganDnot so much for their poetry as their "forging...avant-garde poetic career[s] in a climate of inchoate anxiety over masculine authority and cultural centrality." Recommended for those who want to read about big Foucaultian concepts and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick theories applied to the Berkley Poetry conference of 1965 and for those who are comfortable thinking of poets as revealing careers rather than lives.DScott Hightower, Fordham Univ., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A jargon-ridden and rather disparate short study of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Louis Zukofsky, and Ted Berrigan, this book focuses on "career over canon." Rifkin takes the sensible step of orienting the discussion to the historical. The diligent reader will find a provocative overview of four careers and the time period during which the authors wrote. Chapter 2 is worth singling out: it "returns to the originary moment of Olson and Creeley's collaboration in order to trace the development of their distinctive poetic stance out of their complex relationship to each other, to the concept of professionalism and to different professions--from cultural anthropology to publishing." Which is to say, the author develops the important contrast between Creeley and Olson, the former claiming "the interior as his projective territory" while Olson "sought the public stage." Rifkin provides impressive notes and list of works cited. Despite noted weaknesses in style and structure, recommended for graduate students through faculty. W. J. Martz; Ripon College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introduction: Reading the Poetic Careerp. 3
Chapter 1 Charles Olson's "Queer University": Institutionalizing Postwar Avant-Gardesp. 13
The Theory of the Avant-Garde and Practicep. 14
"His Life, His Mouth, and His Poem": Articulating Institutionsp. 17
Permanent Revolution and the Construction of the Contemporaryp. 27
Chapter 2 "The Company of Love": The Collaborated Careers of Charles Olson and Robert Creeleyp. 32
"Both a Poet and an Historian": Reading Professionsp. 35
Maximus' Epic Exclusionsp. 38
"What's On between Us Is a Methodology": The Correspondence and Its Institutionsp. 44
"In the Field, Away from People": Ethnography, Amateurism, Ethicsp. 58
Creeley and "The Business"p. 66
Chapter 3 The Legacy of Louis Zukofskyp. 72
"Looking for a Place to / Bury--Ricky": Objectification and Desire in Early "A"p. 78
Late "A," Bottom, and the Logic of "Love"p. 91
"Now That I'm an 'Acquisition'": The Texas Archive and the Collected Subjectp. 102
Chapter 4 "Worrying about Making It": Ted Berrigan's Social Poeticsp. 108
"My Name a Household Name": Making Reputationp. 109
The Sonnets and the Sonneteerp. 113
Assembling Vocationp. 115
"Writing a Name for a Day": Poetic Occasion, Poetic Artifactp. 120
"Alone and Crowded, Unhappy Fate": Editorship and/as Authorshipp. 128
Conclusion: Unnatural Acts and the Next Actsp. 136
Language Writing Institutionsp. 139
A Contemporary Careerp. 142
Notesp. 149
Works Citedp. 161
Indexp. 169