Marjorie Perloff

Marjorie Perloff is one of the foremost American critics of modern and contemporary poetry. Her work has been concerned with describing, evaluating, and — at times — advocating for the writing of experimental and avant-garde poets and relating them to major currents of modernist and postmodernist activity in all the arts.

She is the author of many books and hundreds of essays. Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media appeared in 1991 and sought to situate the flight from “transparency” (language aiming to “natural,” to sound like “real” talk) to “artifice” (poetic language foregrounding its own artificiality). Her 1981 book, The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage, examines the continuities from modernist to postmodernist culture, a concept that has remained central in her work. Perloff’s most recent book, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century, explores contemporary poetry’s embrace of “unoriginal” writing through choice, framing, and language.

Marjorie Perloff’s energies as a writer and teacher have been devoted to creating a public for the work of writers whom others have wanted to dismiss as too difficult, obscure, or marginal. Her own writing is anything but that; as the critic Frank Kermode has said, Marjorie Perloff is fun to read. She writes to explain, and communicates through vivid juxtapositions, formulations, and examples. She is professor emerita of English at Stanford University and is currently scholar-in-residence at the University of Southern California.

The poet Peter Barry has called Perloff “a theorist whose work has maintained its distinctiveness in the face of the rapid homogenization of literary criticism and theory … We need her distinctive voice more than ever as literary theory enters its third millennium.”