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This article is taken from PN Review 97, Volume 20 Number 5, May - June 1994.

An Autobiographical Summary Laura (Riding) Jackson

If it is true, as Dr Johnson once observed, that 'every man's life may be best written by himself' (and surely that applies as well to a woman's life), then the 'autobiographical summary'presented here must take precedence over any attempt by others - including myself- to tell the story of the life of Laura (Riding) Jackson. One such attempt, recently published, has been described in The New York Review of Books as 'partial', and the adjective is apt in both its senses.

The crucial act of Laura (Riding) Jackson's life was not stepping out of a window in St. Peter's Square: it was renouncing poetry. Her chosen' path of poetry', though ultimately leading beyond what she came to regard as the unnatural constraints of poetic utterance, can nevertheless be seen as straight and stead~Thebrash outspokenness of her youth became the radical candour of her old age, the poet's love of words became the speaker's passionate dedication to linguistic integrity, and her consciousness of herself became a consciousness of the Universe.

Although its provenance is uncertain, this previously unpublished autobiographical summary' was probably written in the mid-1960s and intended as an introduction for a new edition of her poems, long out of print. Internal evidence suggests that it was written sometime between June 20,1966, the twenty-fifth anniversary of her marriage, and July 4, 1968, the date of her husband's death. In the autumn of 1966 Wesleyan University Press asked for, in her words, 'a book presenting ...

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