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This article is taken from PN Review 152, Volume 29 Number 6, July - August 2003.

The Book of Repulsive Women: Djuna Barnes' Unknown Poetry Rebecca Loncraine

Revelling grandly into vice
Dropping crooked into rhyme.
Slipping through the stitch of virtue

Djuna Barnes is best known for her 1936 novella Nightwood. While recognised primarily as a prose writer, her work has arguably had more influence on poets. T.S. Eliot and Marianne Moore, for instance, were self-proclaimed fans of her writing. In his introduction to her most famous work, Eliot wrote: `Nightwood will appeal primarily to readers of poetry... it is so good a novel that only sensibilities trained on poetry can wholly appreciate it.' Moore remarked, `reading Djuna Barnes is like reading a foreign language, which you understand.' Few people, however, know that Barnes also wrote poetry. Carcanet are publishing a collection of her verse in the Fyfield series this September, which I introduce, entitled The Book of Repulsive Women. The poems were originally published in journals and magazines such as The Dial, The Little Review, Vanity Fair, the All-Story Cavalier Weekly and Smart Set. Some of the poems were then included in the 1923 collection of her writing, A Book. The majority of the poems, however, have not been republished since their first appearance, and a small number of them were never published at all, languishing in manuscript form in the Barnes archive at the University of Maryland until recently. As a collection these poems are extremely diverse: since they were written between 1911 and the 1980s, considerable change and development in style and influence are inevitable. The early poems ...

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