1 PERHAPS THE WORLD ENDS HERE: RE-INSCRIBING THE KITCHEN IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN WOMENS POETRY By JANEL M. CAYER A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007
2 2007 Janel M. Cayer
3 To my husband, Andy Cayer.
4 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..............5 BREAKING THE BOYS RULES.................................................................................................6 RENOVATING THE KITCHEN..................................................................................................13 THERES A MAN IN MY KITCHEN!........................................................................................23 DISRUPTING DOMESTIC BLISS..............................................................................................27 VIOLENCE IN THE KITCHEN...................................................................................................34 MAKING THE PRIVATE PUBLIC.............................................................................................40 NO ONE WHO COOKS IS ALONE............................................................................................43 THROUGH THE KITCHEN WINDOW......................................................................................47 INSCRIBING THE DAILY..........................................................................................................50 LIST OF REFERENCES............................................................................................................. ..52 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................57
5 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts PERHAPS THE WORLD ENDS HERE: RE-INSCRIBING THE KITCHEN IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN WOMENS POETRY By Janel M. Cayer May 2007 Chair: Marsha Bryant Major: English The kitchen holds a central space in many American homes, and can be figured as a microcosm of society. Examining post-war and contemporary womens domestic poetry as well as various modes of kitchen cu lture provides a complex configur ation of the American kitchen and the work that takes place there. Throughout th e twentieth century, the kitchen shifts from a space of relative insignificance within the poetic realm to one of importance regarding definitions of womens work. This shift is re presented in contemporary womens kitchen poems. Until fairly recently womens work in the home has been consistently devalued, and poetry dealing with domestic concerns has been written off as insignifi cant. By re-evaluating how the home and housework function in womens poetry of the twentieth and twenty first centuries, we can begin to move toward a more complete conf iguration of a womens poe tic aesthetic. This project works to examine the ways in whic h some contemporary women poets overhaul the kitchen in order to muscle past the traditional boundaries of domesticity.
6 BREAKING THE BOYS RULES Write about blood, babies, the moon and jam-ma king and be a Woman Poet; or, cut out half of your life experience and ge t taken seriously. -Maura Dooley Wonder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table. -Charles Pierre Monselet1 Come what may the house helps us to say: I will be an inhabita nt of the world, in spite of the world. -Gaston Bachelard The contemporary kitchen occupies a centralized place in domestic life; much of the work of the American home transpires within this dynamic space. Historically functioning as a feminine space of food preparation, the cont emporary kitchen has shifted to a more heterogeneous and gender neutral space of unlimite d domestic activities. In the early twentieth century (circa 1913) Christine Frederick envisioned the kitchen as a space solely devoted to food preparation and associated act ivities: What is a kitchen? It is a place for the preparation of food All unrelated work, such as laundry work, with its particular equipment, should be kept out of the kitchen as much as possible (qtd. in Bullock 1988, 180). Sin ce the conception of Fredericks rigidly compartmentalized domestic model, the American kitchen has undergone substantial renovations throughout the twentieth cen tury. Both technological advances (i.e., shifting from the manual kitchen to th e automatic kitchen of the 1950s onward)2 and structural changes (i.e., merging the kitchen with th e rest of the house via the open floor plan)3 have enabled a reclassification of the kinds of work that can be perfo rmed within the kitchen. Acting 1 Quoted in Tara McLellan, Small Spaces, Beautiful Kitchens (Gloucester: Rockport Publishers, 2003): 107. 2 See Martin Hand and Elizabeth Shove, Orc hestrating Concepts: Kitchen Dynamics and Regime Change in Good Housekeeping and Ideal Home 1922-2002, Home Cultures 1.3 (November 2004): 243; and Marsha Bryant, Plath, Domesticity, a nd the Art of Advertising, College Literature 29:3 (Summer 2002): 27-8. 3 See Karal Ann Marling, As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s (Cambridge, Massachuset ts: Harvard UP, 1994): 253.
7 as a diversified space, the kitchen is conti nuously redefined by the miscellaneous domestic activities that take place there.4 As Thomas Cowan illustrates, the American kitchen, formerly an isolating space of domestic drudgery, becomes the site of dynamic familial and social interaction. Often the hub of dome stic activity, the kitchen functi ons as a multivalent space that must accommodate everyones needs that must be ready for unannounced visits, impromptu card games, homework sessions, and lingering fa mily conversations. Most families no longer make distinctions between what is a proper ki tchen activity and what is not (1985, 7). The kitchen is now not only a space for food prepar ation, but also a place for social gathering, intimate familial relationships and after-school projects. As the kitchen assumes a more pivotal space within the American home, some contemporary women poets reconf igurations of domesticity hi nge on the kitchen. Joy Harjo eloquently illustrates the kitchens ability to function as a revisioni st space. Harjo inscribes the plethora of events which revolve around the kitchen table life seems to begin and end here. In her poem, Perhaps the World Ends Here Harjo places both the beginnings and the endings of life on the kitchen table: The world begins at a k itchen table. [. .] / Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite (2005, 52). Harjo celebrates the centr al role that the kitchen table, food, and family gatherings in the pseudopublic, pseudo-private kitchen space plays in our lives. The kitc hen, then, becomes a space that draws us together in times of both celebration an d grieving despite the diffe rences we may have. The communal kitchen space provides the potential for a revisionist poetics. Jacqueline Kolosov identifies Harjos poetry as transformative in th at it involves finding lo ve within hatred, the eternal within the temporal (2003, 39). For Cr aig S. Womack Harjos poetry places emphasis 4 See Tim Edensor, National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life (Oxford: Berg, 2002): 61.
8 on breaking down the boundaries between personal and mythical spaces (1999, 40). At once public and private, past and present, violent a nd benign, the kitchen, as a mythical space, allows Americans in the post-9/11 world to cope with an ever changing cultural climate. For Kolosov, Harjos domestic poetry and, more specificall y, her kitchen poems become necessary and valuable in a contemporary world ravaged by viol ence and terror, for a poetry of transformation offers the reader as well as the writer a way out of fear, hatred, suffering, and passivity (39). The act of pushing against the limitations of the p rivate domestic sphere enables us to rethink how domesticity factors into more publi c and significant ways of making meaning. Women poets have long looked to domestic affairs for poetic inspiration; however, it was not until fairly recently that domestic poetry began to be considered suitable for shaping definitions of a womens poetic aesthetic.5 Anthologists Barbara Segnitz and Carol Raineys conception of womens poetry follo ws the tradition that Laura Sloan Patterson appropriately points out and eventually critique s: a story that takes place within the home is not much of a story at all (Courtship 2003, 912). Maura Dooleys introd uction to her 1997 womens poetry anthology, Making for Planet Alice reflects a recurring bias against womens poetry: The word domestic occurred to good effect like a reflex, in any review of a new collection by a woman, thereby relegating both scope of book and scope of ambition to the kitchen (13). Striving to establish that women can write about more than blood, babies, the moon and jam-making, Dooley insinuates that there is no room for domesticity in good womens poetry (13). In order to create a respectable feminine poetic voice, Suzanne Juhasz argues that women poets have 5 Anthologies of womens poetry from th e 1970s through the 1990s have presented a general devaluation domestic poetry. See Barbara Segnitz and Carol Rainey, eds., Psyche: The Feminine Poetic Consciousness, an Ant hology of Modern American Women Poets (The Dial Press, 1973): 15-34.; Elaine Gill, ed., Mountain Moving Day: Poems by Women (Trumansburg, New York: The Crossing Press, 1973): 7-8.; Maur a Dooley, ed., Making For Planet Alice: New Women Poets (Newcasatle: Bloodaxe Books, 1997): 12-4.
9 historically had to play by the boys rules: this neces sitates leaving feminine experience out of art; leaving it at home in th e kitchen (1976, 4). For Segnitz and Rainey, important women poets, therefore, either critique issues of domestic ity in their poetry, or discard them altogether. For many women poets, the home, housekeeping, childrearing, cooking, etc. are acceptable poetic subjects so long as the speaker denoun ces domesticity and comments on the limiting effects of the home space. This long-established tendency of dismi ssing womens poetry as representative of emotional and personal concerns and as limited and contained within domesticity forms the backdrop for contemporary anthologists, su ch as Pamela Gemin, who champion the transformative potential of dome sticity as poetic material, and pus h for a revaluation of womens poetry that remains contained within the domes tic space. In her essay Women and Fiction Virginia Woolf prefigures the tension between the development of a womens poetic aesthetic that embraces the daily and the subsequent critical reception: It is probable, however, that both in life and in art the values of a woman are not the values of a man. Thus, when a woman comes to write [. .] she will find that she is perpetually wishing to alter the established values to make serious what app ears insignificant to a man, and trivial what is to him important. A nd for that, of course, she will be criticized; for the critic [. .] will be genuinely puzzled a nd surprised by an attempt to alter the current scale of values, and will see in it not merely a difference of vi ew, but a view that is weak, or trivial, or sentimental. (1929, 81) Although Woolfs indication that wo men and men have essentially di fferent values is somewhat problematic, it is important to consider in terms of literary criticism and formations of the poetic canon. As early as 1929 Woolf was making the cas e for the significance of womens experience in literature. Contemporary womens poetry work s to overturn the critical bias that Woolf describes: This is an im portant book, the critic assumes, becaus e it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing room ( Room 80). In other words, past critical views have dismi ssed the ways in which the domestic space interacts
10 with society. Contemporary women poets such as Julia Alvarez, Julianna Baggott, etc. use the traditionally feminine kitchen space to challe nge the critical assumption that womens experience is not important. By eliding the once pr ivate kitchen with larger historical, political, and social events, some contemporary women poet s interrogate the ways in which the kitchen functions as a microcosm of society (Hellm an 2004). If we consider the kitchen as a condensed version of the world, explorations of the kitchen enable us to better understand the universal. For Betty Fussell, the kitche n condenses the universe (1999, 5). In My Kitchen Wars Fussell embodies this sense of the kitchen as a miniature version of society. In the same way, some womens contemporary poetry attempts to illustrate the ways in which the kitchen merges with society. By looking more closely at poetry that inscribes the daily, as Gemin does in Sweeping Beauty instead of dismissing it as insignificant we can begin to transform the landscape of canonical poetry. In Wheres the Kitchen? Patterson recogni zes the need to overcome the trend of deny[ing] the domestic as a releva nt category for study within twentieth-century literature (2001, xi). As Patterson intuitively observes: In not addressing domesticity as both a dominant topic and an important ideological, sp atial, and narrative tool, feminists face the danger of reiterating the message that domesticity is womens work and hence, not significant (Wheres the Kitchen? 2001, 17). Gemins 2005 anthology Sweeping Beauty: Contemporary Women Poets Do Housework works against this long tradition of denying female experience as acceptable poetic material. Gemin appears to be answering Pattersons ca ll for a reconsideration of domesticity and how it func tions in womens literature. By dedicating her anthology to womens poetry that explores the once private concerns of the home, housekeeping, and
11 familial relationships; Gemin challenges us to see that this work, the rites of the tribe, certainly can matter (Huston 2006, 29). Turning to Sweeping Beauty for the driving force behind this project, I am interested in how contemporary womens kitchen poems prompt us to reconsider formations of domesticity. In some contemporary womens poetry, the kitchen becomes a critical space for reconstructing a new womens poetic aesthetic. This project works to examine the ways in which some contemporary women poets overhaul the kitchen in order to muscle past the traditional boundaries of domesticity. A key way in which contemporary women poets challenge the limits of domesticity is in their repr esentations of the kitchen. Ofte n coded as a limiting and stifling space, the kitchen is, arguably, also seen as th e center of the home; one can measure the success of a womans domestic skills by her prowess wi thin the kitchen. The kitchen inhabits a fundamental space within the domestic sphere: often coded as a feminine space of creation, much of the regenerative and life-sustaining work of the home takes place here. The kitchen has also been coded as a restrictiv e and confining space; a space in which women are limited to the roles of housewife and cook. Women poets w ho draw inspiration from the everyday both challenge and re-inscribe notions of the gendered nature of the kitchen. I would also like to interrogate the ways in which kitchen culture in forms our readings of womens kitchen poems and vice versa. According to Sherrie Inness, kitchen culture refers to the various discourses about food, cooking, and gender roles that stem from the kitchen but that pervade our society on many levels (Thinking Food 2001, 3). Innesss configuration of kitchen culture insinuates that the kitchen is a diverse space that is in continuous dialogue with society in general. Kitchen cu lture thus refers to the instru ctional and entertaining discourses of such varied texts as both family and co mmercial cookbooks as we ll as television cooking
12 shows such as In the Kelvinator Kitchen Emeril Live, Iron Chef etc. Popular presentations of the kitchen in home magazines such as Life and Martha Stewart Living and in sitcoms such as Leave it to Beaver also factor into Inness s definition of kitchen cu lture. Although Inness limits her conception of kitchen culture to those discourses which deal directly w ith food and gender roles, it is important to consider those discourses which circle around the structural elements of the kitchen space such as kitchen design manuals and renovation programs including Kitchen Accomplished and Trading Spaces Viewed through the various kinds of kitchen culture, domesticity ceases to be a private concern, a nd the kitchen shifts from a space of relative insignificance within the poetic realm to one of importance regarding definitions of womens work. Working against the backdrop of the other-defined roles of mo ther, wife, and woman in the kitchen, contemporary women poets work to re-inscribe the k itchen as a neutral space of feminine empowerment as well as open up the possi bilities of self definition within this space. By continuing to choose the kitchen as subj ect matter for their poetry, contemporary women poets work to re-inscribe the once private, co nfining, and feminine domestic concerns as more public, liberating, and androgynous. Often a bridge between the private space of the home and the public space beyond the house walls, the kitchens place in the home is rife with opportunity for transformations of the insignificance proscribed to the domestic sphere. Working largely with kitchen poems of the la te fifties and early sixties along with Gemins collection of contemporary domestic poetry, I would like to trace the ways in which kitchen culture and representations of the kitchen in womens poetry have shifted from the 1950s until today. In refusing to play by the boys rules, some contemporary women poets invite us into their kitchens to observe as they mix up our perceptions of the gendered kitchen space.
13 RENOVATING THE KITCHEN In order to more thoroughly understand how th e American kitchen functions in both postwar and contemporary womens poetr y, it is necessary to first consider the ways in which the kitchen space has evolved from the isolating and confining layout of the galley and Frankfurt designs to the sociable and liberating open floor plan f ound in most mid-century and contemporary homes.6 Earlier kitchen designs such as the galley and Frankfurt kitchens, each connoting seclusion, confinement, and the need fo r efficiency, separated the woman working in the kitchen from other members of the family. Thus housewives often felt imprisoned in their rigidly segregated domestic kitc hens. As early as the 1930s, ar chitect Frank Lloyd Wright and female engineer Lillian Moller Gilbreth recognized the benefits of opening up the kitchen space by merging it with the di ning and entertaining areas.7 In 1934 Wright created the first open floor plan; his Malcolm Willey house design fused the k itchen with other rooms in the home (i.e., the dining and living rooms).8 This open floor plan enabled moth ers to work in the kitchen at the same time that they watched their children playin g in the other, yet conjoined parts of the home. This shift in kitchen design was driven by a chan ge in domestic needs. A decade later, as America was making the move to the suburbs, William Levitt made the owner-occupied, singlefamily home the American norm. He moved the k itchen to the front of the house, near the door, [. .] and, in the process, shif ted the domestic focus from the pa rlors and sitting rooms of old to the work center of the new servantless house hold (Marling 1994, 253). As Karal Ann Marling 6 The Frankfurt kitchen was developed by Aust rian architect Grete Schiitte-Lihotsky in the 1920s. See Nicholas Bullock, Fir st the Kitchen: Then the Faade, Journal of Design History 1.3/4 (1988): 187. 7 See Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Encyclopedia of Kitchen History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004): 193. 8 Ibid.
14 indicates, the kitchen became the new social cent er of the suburban home. The opening up of the kitchen created the opportunity for mobility within this previously restrictive space at the same time that it eliminated the housewifes isolat ion. As Marling suggest s, the kitchen began disintegrating into the rest of the house b ecause it is an all-purpose room, an elegant headquarters for all the things the housew ife chooses to get involved with (283). Life magazines 1956 special issue on the American woman ran an article which featured one housewifes open kitchen floor plan. Life represented this open kitchen in a two-page panoramic photograph that visually enhanced the lib erating effects of the open floor plan.9 Centered between the living and dining r ooms, the kitchen functioned as the hub of the home from which mother could contentedly move from one task to the next as she se rved her children lunch, supervised them as they did their homework, or interacted with guests as she hosted an elegant dinner party. Structurally, the open floor plan of the 1950s American kitchen was no longer the site of domestic captivity it once was. Along with the structural opening up of the kitchen space, kitchen culture works to illustrate the fluid boundaries between public and pr ivate spaces. In her discerning analysis of seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth century wo mens cookbooks, Janet Theophano recognizes the ways in which this form of k itchen culture allowed women to reach beyond their restrictive kitchen walls: Despite the constrai nts imposed on them by ma le prerogatives, women were actually constructing social an d utilitarian worlds of their own in the context of the kitchen. For women and their social networ ks, the exchange of recipes for their books was also a form of communication (2002, 167). Although early pe rsonal cookbooks opened up the kitchen space as a way of rebelling agains t the insularities of the kitc hen by creating opp ortunities for 9 This image appeared in Life December 1956.
15 communication between women, commercially pr oduced cookbooks often underlined traditional gender roles. Sherri Inness traces the ways in which childrens cookbooks reinforced the gendered nature of the kitchen: they [boys] were instructed at a young age that their masculinity was imperiled in the most feminine home e nvironment: the kitchen (The Enchantment 2001, 122) Children were thus conditioned to think of th e kitchen as a feminine space. In Jessamyn Neuhauss study of twentieth centu ry marital manuals, she rev eals a strong undercurrent of cooking instruction which linked cooking with ge nder roles more generally: Cooking stood as a kind of domino theory: once a woman wasnt cooking the daily meals, the re st of her gender role was sure to fall apart (105). Neuhauss st udy uncovers an underlying assumption that a womans femininity hinged on her culinary abilitie s; thus her place in the home remained in the kitchen. Although cookbooks blurred the public / pr ivate boundaries of th e kitchen, they often maintained the feminine kitchen space. Cookbooks also opened the kitchen by fostering womens creativity within that space. Popular cooking personality Betty Crocker a nd culinary guru Irma Rombauer brought the art of beautiful cooking into th e American womans kitchen.10 Betty Crockers Picture Cook Book (1950) and Rombauers The Joy of Cooking (1931) emphasized the sens e of artistry involved in cooking. According to Marling: the cake the centerpiece of Betty Crockers Picture Cook Book was the ultimate in aesthetic fare. The ca ke was food as sculptur e, frosted in living color (1994, 223-4). As cookbooks in mid-century America emphasized th e creative aspects of cooking, less than a decade later Julia Child be gan opening up the kitchen by bringing foreign foods into the domestic kitc hen. In the 1960s Childs Mastering the Art of French Cooking 10 Betty Crocker was a fictionalized personality created by the General Mills corporation. According to Marling, Betty Crocker was actua lly forty-eight women who made up the Home Service Department at General Mills (206).
16 blurred the borders between the American and Fr ench kitchens. This combination of Crocker and Rombauers culinary artistry and Childs fo reign cuisine set a gourmet standard for home cooking that remains extant today in such magazines as Gourmet and Bon Appetit Popular representations of th e kitchen on television further blurred the lines between the public and private. As the American kitchen became more structurally open, televised cooking shows literally expanded the kitchen space by broa dcasting it into living rooms all across the country. By breaking away the ki tchens fourth wall, cooking s hows placed the domestic kitchen on display. One of the first cooking show s, aired in 1947 and hosted by Alma Kitchell,11 In the Kelvinator Kitchen was somewhat of a mid-century infomercial for Kelvinator appliances.12 With a run time of fifteen minut es, Kitchell briefly instructed housewives on how to cook in their electric, Kelvinator kitchens. Julia Childs 1960s cooking show, The French Chef ran for thirty minutes and emphasized Childs expertise of French cuisine. Childs charismatic down-to-earth presence on-screen ensured a faithful American following: So good is she that men who have not the slightest intention of going to the kitc hen for anything but ice cubes watch her for pure enjoyment.13 As much as post-war American cooking shows may have both challenged the housewifes insularity in the ki tchen and dissolved the boundaries between the public / private dichotomy, they failed to dismantle the trad itionally feminine space of the kitchen. Yet despite the structural and design changes made to the American kitchen in the 1950s, the kitchen remained the womans place in the ho me. According to Marling, the morphing of the 11 See Snodgrass, 616. 12 See the article Sponsors World in Time 30 August 1948 . 13 See the article Everyon es in the Kitchen in Time 25 November 1966 < http://www. time.com /time/printout/0,8816,843114,00.html>.
17 kitchen from the open-plan to the total floor plan dissolved the existing open plan into a control center or island of major appliances entirely integrated with the rest of the ground floor. [. .] The kitchen became just another part of the fam ily living room, the dining room, the playroom (1994, 281-2). As Mary Ellen Snodgrass observes, the open floor plan worked to [mitigate] the housewifes sense of isolation [in the kitchen], and at the same time, encouraged the husband and their children to involve themselves more in ki tchen activities (2004, 193) Viewed more as a multipurpose workroom, than a place for food prep aration alone, the post-war kitchen became a more public space within the home; a space th at counters the perceptions of domestic containment and discontent that were prev alent in post-war American womens poetry. According to Patterson, in the middle of th e twentieth-century, do mesticity loses its connotations of entombment while retaining a cer tain amount of tension regarding its boundaries and limitations (Courtship 2003, 929). Even though the kitchen becomes structurally opened up in the 1950s, it remained a closed sp ace in term of possible gender roles. Although the more fluid design of the kitchen space encouraged a subsequent change in the rigid and traditional gender roles, the kitchen co ntinued to be defined as a feminine space both structurally and in terms of the work that wa s performed in the kitchen. The kitchen then becomes both a space of nurturing and conception (i.e., a life-giving, womb-like space) and a space in which mostly women work (i.e., women gain mastery and power in the kitchen). The home, historically conceived of as a private space of the family, means, as Dolores Hayden argues, both the physical space and the nurturing th at takes place there. In American life, it is hard to separate the ideal of home from the id eals of mom and apple pie, of mother love and home cooking (1984, 63). By representing the ways in which both mom and mother love are connected to food, both the preparation and the fi nished product, Hayden implicitly characterizes
18 the gendered nature of the kitchen. In Haydens explanation of the home, the compartmentalized domestic structure becomes associated with the kinds of work performed in each separate space. The kitchen is thus inscribed in feminine terms a nd associated with female nurturing because it is the quintessential womans place in the home. In the 1950s, housewife topped the list of careers available to women; trained to be housekeepers, many college-bound co-eds sought edu cation as a back-up plan, something to fall back on if they did not get married and have a family. For Pamela Gemin, the message was clear: you will always be cooking, sewing, wash ing, scrubbing, and dusting (2005, xv). As Gemin illustrates, in post-war America the chor es around the house were largely considered womens responsibilities. According to Elai ne Tyler May, successful breadwinners supporting attractive homemakers in affluent suburban hom es made up the ideal, post-war American domestic dream (1988, 18). In other words, wo men of the Baby Boom generation were told that their place would always be in the home. Despite these structural changes in kitchen design, representations of the kitchen in 1950s popular cultu re still insisted that the kitchen was, in fact, the womans space. Images of Mays post-war domestic dream can be found in the family sitcoms of the 1950s. In Leave it to Beaver the Cleavers embody the domes tic ideal of breadwinner / homemaker that May identifies; Ward leaves th e house daily to commute to work while June stays home to keep up the house. One of the underpinnings of post-war ideology is that the kitchen is a feminine space of womens work wh erein men do not know how to act because they lack the expertise required to function in this feminine space. Family sitcoms of the period reinforced this ideology by stressing the ease and apparent cleanliness of actions within the kitchen. According to Marli ng television shows such as Father Knows Best and The
19 Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and other family comedies [. .] featured fully equipped kitchens in which the stars often appeared to ma ke and serve meals during the course of the halfhour time slot, without so much as mussing thei r aprons (1994, 217). One caveat which must be added to Marlings observation of the 1950s tele vision kitchen is that t he stars who worked in the kitchen needed to be women if order was to be maintained in that space. Representing distinct places for men and women in the suburban home, Leave it to Beaver is one sitcom that presents the kitchen as a feminized space. In the 1957 episode, Water Anyone, June is continuously connected with the kitchen: she is always seen either coming from or going to the kitchen in order to prepare a meal or perform some other domestic task. Although Junes kitchen functions as an alternate entry and exit point to the Cleavers Mansfi eld home, June is the only member of the Cleaver family that can successfully operate within the kitchen spa ce. Whenever men enter the feminized kitchen, they do not know how to function in that space. For example, Wally goes into the kitchen to get a drink of water and instead makes a mess. Trying to clean up after himself, he fails to negotiate proper housekeeping etiquette and uses a curtain to wipe up the water he has spilled. Later, June returns to the kitchen only to find it in disarra y, and must restore order he rself. Wallys venture into the kitchen space creates more work for J une and subsequently underpins the ideology of post-war gender roles. June then comes to em body the idealized image of the woman in the kitchen, apron and all. While sitcoms such Leave it to Beaver presented the feminized kitchen as a place of domestic contentment, poets such as Anne Se xton challenged the feminine domestic ideals. Sexton evaluates the assumption that women are intr insically and indissolubl y part of the home. In her short, pithy 1962 poem Housewife Sexton f uses house with wife in order to show
20 the effects on men and women of a too inti mate identification between women and the metaphorical home (Nelson 1996, 101): Some women marry houses. Its another kind of skin; it has a heart, a mouth, a liver and bowel movements. The walls are permanent and pink. See how she sits on her knees all day, faithfully washing herself down. Men enter by force, drawn back like Jonah into their fleshy mothers. A woman is her mother. Thats the main thing. (1981, 77) In this poem, Sextons use of marry embodies all senses of the term. At one level, the union is between a man and a woman. In this marriage, th e house takes on the role of male lover: it has a heart, / a mouth, a liver and bowel movements (77). Attributing human organs and functions to the house structure allows Sexton to critique the heterosexual marital unit by indicating that the woman marries the house and not the man. Se xtons poem also figures traditional gender roles and domestic confinement for women. As the line between house and woman of the house becomes blurred, it is clear that the home b ecomes a feminine space from which women, like it or not, cannot be separated; the female subject in this poem is a permanent fixture in the home. In this configuration of marriage, Sexton implies masculine ownership of domestic space as well as the husbands ability to leave the domestic space behind. According to Deborah Nelson, Men have a very temporary (as opposed to perma nent) presence in the house and [. .] their position inside is unnatural. [. .] the anal ogy to Jonah, the disobe dient prophet who was expelled from the whale three days after his inge stion, reminds us of mens withdrawal from the home rather than their coexiste nce in it (102). Like Jonah, Sextons men have a transitory relationship to domesticity; they are able to come and go as they please, using phys ical strength as necessary.
21 At another level, marry c onnotes a union and mixing of selv es; the housewife in this poem, then, becomes one with the structure that is ultimately designed to contain her. The house is thus coded in feminizing terms of vulnerabi lity, nurturing, and reception: Men enter by force [. .] / into their fleshy mothers. / A woman is her mother (1981, 77). The self and the house are integrally linked in this poem, indicating that women are a part of the domestic space. Even more specifically, women are domestic space in Sextons parallel configurations of the house as a structure and the house as a body. Sexton complicat es the domestic space on a few levels; it is at once feminine and open to masculine penetra tion. Sexton also complicates the domestic space by illustrating its power to confine the housewife; however, the structure fails as a layer of protection against outside stimuli. Sextons conf iguration of the house in this poem speaks to an underlying tension between secur ity and vulnerability that Ma y uncovers in the 1950s suburban home: The home seemed to offer a secure privat e nest removed from the dangers of the outside world. The message was ambivalent, however, for the family also seemed particularly vulnerable. [. .] The self-contained home held out the promise of security in an insecure world (1988, 3). Conversely, as May insinuates and Sext on illustrates, this promise was not always fulfilled. Perhaps because the domestic space is iden tified as the womans realm (i.e., sensitive and unprotected), it is also not sa fe from outside stimuli, disrup tion, and violence; men are thus enabled to enter by force (77). Sextons housew ife is ravaged by sexual violence both as a structure and as a woman and ultimately this feminine space falls under masculine ownership. Like contemporary poet Harjo, Sexton uses surreal images to challenge the boundaries between domestic and mythical spaces. There is a sense of feminine inheritance in this poem which can be linked to femini ne creation myths: A woman is her mother. / Thats the main thing (77). Although the domestic space is c ouched in feminizing terms (i.e., pink and
22 mother) that metaphorically merge the home wi th the vagina, the space ultimately comes under vicious masculine control. Sexton also invoke s the masculine myth of Jonah and places it adjacent to the feminine myth of creation. By ju xtaposing male and female myths, Sexton is able to challenge the traditional and disdainful a ttitude towards womens poetic work: Male poets engage in quests; women poets run errands (O striker 1986, 4-5). Even though men engage in public quests and enter into the home (i.e., vagina) by force, Sexton indicate s that all myths cycle back to the mothers womb even tually. In this way, Sextons hous ewife is at once confined and violated, but also empowered in that the maternal body is the main thing (77). Sexton illustrates a continuous cycle of maternal legacy th at parallels Harjos lega cy of creation: The world begins at a kitchen table [. .] / So it ha s been since creation and it will go on. [. .] / We make men at it, we make women (52). Both Harjo and Sexton invoke creation myths and link them with the kitchen and the house, respectivel y. Sextons mythical invocation challenges the gendered nature of work as well as the dom estic space; however, Housewife is ultimately unable to break down traditional gender roles. Unlike Sexton, Harjo presents a de-gendered alternative, one in which the ki tchen space as well as the work th at takes place there becomes a collective, rather than feminine responsibility.
23 THERES A MAN IN MY KITCHEN! As illustrated through post-war kitchen culture (i.e., popular magazines, cookbooks, and cooking shows) the kitchen in mid-century Ameri ca sheds earlier connotations of containment. However, it has not been until fairly recently that depictions of the kitchen, as represented in contemporary kitchen culture, open up the possibility for changing gender roles. Popular figures such as Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse and B obby Flay as well as popular television networks such as The Food Network challenge the tradi tionally gendered nature of kitchen space. Marketing a form of kitchen culture that embr aces creativity, hospitality, and agency, Martha Stewarts kitchen embodies not the imposed domesticity that Betty Friedan attacks in The Feminine Mystique ,14 but, as Ann Mason and Marian Myer s point out: a different type of domesticity from that of previous generations. [. . ] She [Stewart] represents a liberated, chosen domesticity. Indeed, Martha St ewart appears to be giving permi ssion to be interested in the domestic arena (qtd. in Bruns don 2006, 49). Stewarts feminine status as a domestic goddess fuses with her more masculine image as a shrewd businessperson, enabling her to bend traditional gender roles within the kitchen. Her ability to assume both the feminine role of homemaker and the more masculine role of C.E.O., challenges the feminine status of the kitchen. Stewarts masculinized domesticit y demonstrates the kinds of ag ency which are possible within this space and enables a further de -gendering of the American kitchen. As illustrated by popular television personaliti es such as Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay, women are no longer the only experts in the kitchen. Popular cooking shows, such as Emeril Live that feature masculine personalities work to de-gender the kitchen space by insisting that men, as well as women, can master the arts of the kitchen. While Emeril Live opens up the 14 See Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001): 43-4.
24 kitchen by placing a man behind the counter cooking competition shows such as Iron Chef go one step further in de-gendering the kitchen by re-inscribing the ki nds of work performed there. Iron Chef transforms the contemporary kitc hen into a competitive arena. Iron Chef fosters what T.J.M. Holden describes as a sporting environment: its conflictual, competitive discourse is one normally associated with games [. .] with its clock, rival combatants, teams of specialists, sideline announcer, play-by-play and color commentators, and fi nal judges. Such competitive shows adopt the rhetoric, the visual, contextual, and practical tropes of sport, an institution created by and for men (2005, 45-6). As Holden implies, the kitchen, then becomes a masculine space of gaming. In this way, the contemporary kitchen moves towards more fluidly defined gender roles. Some contemporary women poets such as Sara h Messer rework the gendered kitchen space by drawing inspiration from post-wa r American poets, such as Sexton, who challenge domestic ideals in their poetry. Echoes of Sextons Hous ewife are present in Messers Some women marry houses; Messer borrows her title directly from the first line of Sextons poem. Messer modifies the earlier images of Sextons simultaneously limited, violent, and surreal domesticity in order to both invoke and re-inscribe the negative landscape of th e kitchen in post-war womens poetry. Revising Sext ons surreal self-as-house imag ery, Messers poem both invokes and refigures womens work in relation to the structures they inhabi t. While Sextons poem imagines a feminization of the domestic space, Me ssers poem complicates the gendered nature of the house by presenting domes tic structures that are neither fully masculine nor fully feminine. The speakers grandmother married a luthier who ultimately encased her inside / the belly of a violin (2005, 98). 15 Her mother married / a meat-shop owned by a prominent / 15 Luthier: a violin maker.
25 butcher; he slaughters every yearling and ea ch evening she washes / the red walls down, clearing away all traces of death (98). The speak er marries no one; she liv e[s] alone and love[s] / the abandoned walls of her deserted home (99) In this surreal lineage, each successive generation of women in Messers poem inhabits a more liberated structure and is able to gain more agency than the previous generation. The speaker in this poem is not the victim of domestic and sexu al violence as the housewife in Sextons poem is, nor is she the prisoner her grandmother was. Messers housewife becomes empowered within her secluded home; she is not the vulnerable pink shell as Sextons housewife is: Its easy to love the house, so quiet in the haze of morning windows its easy to love the chimney, still warm from last nights fire, and solid at the center, something to put my hands upon when no one will enter me. (99) Some women marry houses is a contemporary rendition of Housewife that circles around various unpleasant dimensions of womens do mestic work, but ultimately settles on the independent, self-sufficient woman. If, following Sextons surreal embodime nt of the home, we read the speakers house to be humanized, Messe r leaves out any indication that the space is gendered. Whereas the domestic space in Sexton s poem is highly feminized, yet terrorized and owned by men, the domestic space in Messers versi on is gender neutral and ultimately defined by the female speaker: I live alone and love / the abandoned walls, the water/ damage (99). For Messer, the home becomes an imperfect plac e of independence, not the well-kept place of containment that Sexton depicts. Some women marry houses bridges the gap between contemporary and post-war genderings of domestic space. In contrast to the rigid gender roles of post-war America,
26 contemporary women poets move from the femini ne vision of the domestic space in post-war America to the more open and de-gendered percep tions of domesticity we have today. The once contained kitchen space has been both architectura lly and conceptually op ened up via shifts in design and kitchen culture respectiv ely. No longer contained within four walls, the open kitchen enables modifications in the kinds of work th at are performed within the kitchen. Although contemporary poets such as Messer are able to metaphorically create de-gendered spaces, contemporary domesticity remains rife with am biguities. The remainder of this project interrogates the different ways in which wome ns kitchen poems open up the kitchen space and challenge formations of womens work.
27 DISRUPTING DOMESTIC BLISS Although popular images and mainstream ideol ogy of the 1950s represented the kitchen as an ideal space of domestic contentment, wo mens poetry began to figure a disruption of domestic bliss.16 Despite the fact that the kitchen was no longer a physically contained space, women began to feel stifled within their state-of-the-art kitchens. Roberta R ubenstein effectively contextualizes womens place the transitiona l 1950s and 1960s: Influenced by Simone de Beauvoirs exploration of the second sex and Betty Friedans articulation of the feminine mystique during the 1950s and 1960s, many women came to regard home as a restrictive, confining space (2). Similarly, Marling spec ulates on the possible source for the 1950s housewifes discontent in the kitc hen: whether there was too mu ch repetitious work to do, or too little to fill the time created by laborsavi ng appliances, women were not thriving in their push-button, dream kitchens (1994, 255). As Ma rling indicates, the electric kitchen was problematic in that women faced both the drudgery of mindless, push-button, domestic tasks, as well as the boredom which came with too much idle time. Resisting the automatic nature of the mechanized kitchen space, women poets ofte n rebelled against domestic traps. In his interrogation of post-war America, The Other Fifties Joel Foreman encodes the 1950s as a time of transition and rebellion: most studies of the fif ties [. .] appear as histories of victimization rather than as histories of nascent rebell ion and liberation (1997, 3-4). Working from Foremans conception 1950s upheaval, post-war wo mens poetry that rebels against domestic traps is representative of its historical moment. 16 See Artemis Michaildou, Edna St. Vincen t Millay and Anne Sexton: The Disruption of Domestic Bliss. Journal of American Studies 38.1 (April 2004): 67-88.
28 Anne Sextons Self in 1958 effectively illust rates the angst women poets expressed as the second wave of feminism began to emerge in America in the early 1960s.17 The poem aptly captures the loss of an independent self ident ity coupled with the fo rced confinement women often experienced within the hom e in post-war America. Sexton frames Self in 1958 with a paradoxical interrogation of reality; the speaker seeks reality outright as she simultaneously, and somewhat anxiously, proves her self to be an im itation: What is reality? / I am a plaster doll (1981, 155). The reality that Sexton s speaker seeks is twofold; she longs to find her real self as well as the real world beyond this enclosed dom estic realm. As Nelson argues, it was the inevitable position of this doll in the dolls house to live a paradox to dwell entirely within the walls of the home, which, though completely divo rced from the public, is neither private nor individual (1996, 94). Sextons ho usewife is a plaster doll w ith steel eyes that are cut open and shellacked upon her face. She is a synthetic doll who should shift gears and who cannot cry because she lacks the tears (155-6). The housewife, in Sextons terms, is an artificial woman; she is a piecemeal creation th at has been constructe d to fit within the commodified kitchen space. The subtle undertones whisper: Is this domesticated life all there is? Sextons housewife fears that the culmination of he r life is shut up in th is fabricated space. Searching for some indication that she is st ill, in fact, human, perhaps Sextons housewife is testing herself to see if she can still feel pain; to s ee if she is still responsive to stimuli and not merely a lifeless shell. Adrienne Richs homemaker in Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law articulates this same need for the housewife to test her senses: Sometimes shes let the tapstream scald her arm, a match to burn her thumbnail, or held out her hand above the kettles snout 17 See Deborah L. Madsen, Feminist Theory and Literary Practice (Sterling, VA: Pluto P, 2001): 7.
29 right in the wooly steam. They are probably angels, since nothing hurts her anymore, except each mornings grit blowing into her eyes. (1987, 215) Both Sexton and Rich are seemingly commen ting on the numbing effects of womens work However, it may not be so much the work of the womans sphere, but the depression these women have sunk into that cause s this numbness. Cut off from the outside world and concerned with the limited domestic realm, the wome n of Sexton and Richs poems go stir crazy Although the housewife is unable to leave the domestic space she is not the typical woman, happy within the confines of her doll s house. Sextons speake r differentiates herself from an older and more traditional form of do mesticity: Is this what Mrs. Rombauer said? (1981, 155). Here Sexton invokes a long tradition of kitchen culture, The Joy of Cooking that has been continuously in print since the mid-1930s As the title indicates, Rombauers cookbook highlighted the positive acts of cooking in th e home. In her biography of Rombauer, Anne Mendelson insists that The Joy of Cooking was popular because Romb auer did not tell other people how they should cook, but how she cooke d and what a bang she got out of it (1996, 131). Sextons misplaced housewife undercuts the content domesticity which Rombauer represents. By critiquing Romb auers traditional form of dome sticity, Sexton rejects the typical housewifes role in the kitche n. According to Artemis Mich aildou, Sexton wrote about oppressive domesticity during an er a that advocated social progress. [. . She] simultaneously took up the argument for social change, and turn ed domesticity and the disruption of domestic bliss into new subjects for wome ns poetry (2004, 88). In ke eping with the simultaneously public and private space of the dolls house, Sext on further blurs the boundaries of the home by invoking this form of kitchen culture that ex ists both inside and outside of the home. Sextons speaker symbolizes a mechanical self; a self that is not independent, but formed to fit into the domestic space in which she is pla nted. In Sextons configuration of the kitchen
30 space, the woman is an automaton in the home acting only at the hands of others; she seemingly has no agency of her own: I am a plaster doll / [. .] Someone pl ays with me, / plants me in the all-electric kitchen (1981, 155). Friedan por trays the housewife as an anonymous biological robot (2001, 308). In the modern, technologi cally-advanced kitche n the housewife thus becomes another kind of appliance. As Marsha Bryant insightfully illustrates: This was, after all, the era of the fully automatic kitchen wh ere food preparation was not strictly active or passive, human or mechanical (2002, 27-8). Sextons surreal embodiment of the fifties housewife as a machine is reminiscent of a cartoon which was printed in the December 1956 issue of Life magazine. Featuring a di straught housewife attached to a series of domestic appliances (i.e., an oven, a vacuum cleaner, a wa shing machine, and iron, etc.) the illustration was coupled with the following caption: The endless appliances meet in a ganglion of plugs. Intended as the housewife's friend, the Machine is instead a hydra-headed Meloch into whose maw she is forever putting this and that, including herself. It's humming, purri ng, swishing, rattling fugue is one to which her very bones are so attuned that she can detect a morbid note in an instant, and have the proper repair man on the telephone in another. (151)18 As the caption indicates, the housewife becomes a part of this domestic monster-machine; however, she must rely on the proper repair man to fix anything that may go wrong. The housewife thus becomes a permanent fixture of the home: The American woman became an attribute of the kitchen. The model kitchen was also a model of ge nder roles (Marling 1994, 281). Objectified and forced to live in a dolls house, Sextons speaker is unable to escape the traditional formations of domesticity she so desperately sought to differentiate herself from. Whereas Sextons speaker in Housewife become s the home, in Self in 1958, the woman is transplanted into the kitc hen and becomes a prisoner of the domestic space. 18 This cartoon appeared in Life December 1956.
31 Sexton is not the only post-w ar poet who expands the kitche n through rebellion. Sylvia Plath figures a negative domestic space, from which her speaker is able to escape because she is a visitor in this kitchen. For Plath, the domes tic space is fraught with violence and terror: Viciousness in the kitchen! / The potatoes hiss (Lesbos 1981, 227). The very act of preparing food becomes embedded with aggres sion in Plaths 1962 poem, Lesbos. The speakers invasion of domestic space allows her to maneuver through the kitchen in ways that the housewife cannot. Almost r eading like a double fo r the speaker, the only opportunity for Plaths fettered housewife to leave the domestic sp ace is vicariously through the speaker: Floats our heads, two venomous opposites, / Our bones, our hair. / I call you Orphan, orphan. You are ill (227). At the same time that the housew ife and the speaker merge, they diverge. Plath creates a negative and performative space within the home, it is all Hollywood, windowless; the home is concurrently a sight of surveillance and a stiflin g, melancholy form of hell on earth. In her study of Plath and advert ising, Bryant argues that like ads, these poems [Lesbos and Cut] give the sense that the house wife in her kitchen is never alone (2002, 21). The fluorescent lights, evocative of a movie se t or a television sound stage, are oppressive and the speaker attempts to escape through self-medication: Im doped and thick from my last sleeping pill. / The smog of cooking, the smog of hell / Floats our heads, two venomous opposites (228). In this configuration, the pub lic, displayed domestic space becomes polluted; food preparation shifts from a lif e-sustaining action to one which destroys and threatens the safe space of the home. As the speaker exits the domestic space, she rejects the traditional role of the housewife both by turning the kitchen into a poisonous envi ronment and by scorning the cute dcor that close[s] in on you like the fist of a baby (229) Like Sextons reje ction of Rombauers Joy of
32 Cooking Plath rebels against the confin es of kitchen culture such as Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens that dictated interior design of the suburban kitchen. Ultimately Plaths persona plays by the boys rules and leaves the domestic space and her feminine experiences far behind. Not suited for the role of housewife, I am still raw, the speaker abruptly exits the stage, and never looks back: I say I may be back. / You know what lies are for. / Even in your Zen heaven we shant meet (229). Unlike the housewife / machine in Sextons Self in 1958, Plaths speaker su ccessfully escapes the domestic space. While both Sexton and Plath re ject 1950s domesticity and invoke negative images of the kitchen against which their women rebel, some contemporary women poets, such as Dorothy Barresi, create a bridge between post-war a nd contemporary womens poetry by reminiscing about 1950s America. Barresis In Waking Words straddles th e divide between contemporary and post-war womens poetry providing an ironi c sense of nostalgia for the 1950s American, suburban kitchen. The speakers mother is contai ned within the kitchen; this space is where she both works and lives: My mother asleep at the kitchen table / is a commuter except / she is already at home, at work (10). The kitchen fo rms an all-encompassing sphere of existence for the mother that is reminiscent of Sextons hous ewife in Self in 1958; Barresis speaker can only escape the domestic space through her dreams. Instantly Barresi transports us back to postwar suburbia when the speaker was but a fetus tapdancing in her [mothers] big belly, [her] hands / making S-shapes in the water (10). For a brief moment, Barresi provides us with a sense of tranquil mobility within containment. Barresi jolts us awake as she j uxtaposes the mothers longing to return to the 1950s next to a negative conception of domesticity reminiscen t of the Plaths embodiment of violence in the kitchen. Even the Technicolor appliances perform little cruelties: The refrigerator is so
33 turquoise it hurts (10). And, just beyond the borders of the home a child is hit by a joyriding Caddy (10). Ironically, the desi re to return back to a time of simplicity is undercut by the possibility of violence and captivity. On one leve l, Barresis formation of domesticity reaffirms the post-war anxieties about womens containment and vulnerability in the kitchen. Barresis depiction of her mothers kitchen al so functions as a merging of domestic and mythical spaces. Like both Harjo and Sexton, Barresi opens up the kitchen by exploring the mythic possibilities within the everyday. Barresis In Waking Words is transformative in that it opens the kitchen space and allows the everyda y to transcend into a kind of metaphysical event: metal, gone stars (10). By capturing th e present, past, and future in the same poetic space, Barresi creates a space in which the temporal transitions into the eternal. Ever moving towards chaos, In Waking Words ceases to be a personal story and becomes myth.
34 VIOLENCE IN THE KITCHEN Another way in which women poets open up th e kitchen space is through depictions of violence and history. According to Lynn Chun I nk, [history] represents one discourse through which we come to know the past (2004, 788). Similar to womens rebellion poems, these poems disrupt domestic bliss in order to challe nge the gendered kitchen space. Often portraying both private and public forms of violence and anchoring them in history, these poems work to illustrate how personal and public history elide w ith one another. These revisionist histories work, as Ink explains: When histories are relate d from the perspectives of women, the process of historical rehabilitation furt her entails a redefinition of the parameters that determine national identity because of the traditi onal exclusion of women from thes e collectives (2004, 788). Like the kitchen presented in Lesbos, Plaths kitche n in Cut is a space fraught with violence and malice; however, the violence in Cut is, at times, self-inflicted: What a thrill my thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone except for a sort of hinge. (1981, 235) Plaths speaker relates the violen ce of the kitchen with duplicitous glee: What a thrill (235). Gina Wisker locates Plaths formation of domesticity in violence: the familiar domestic (mothers, grandmothers, kitchens) is threateni ng, deceptive, and unreliable (2004, 107). Wisker further elucidates Plaths violent domesticity : The domestic is deadly. Cooking, devouring, spell-casting, battering (of food/ women) are interwoven, figuring the desire to marry and cook for a husband as dangerous [. .] the result is being devoured, sacrificed (112). According to Byrant, Trepanned veteran of the speakers own kitchen wars, the bloody thumb attests to the inherent violence of food preparation (2002, 22). Both Wisker and Bryant provide insightful
35 readings of the violence in Pl aths poetry; however, I would li ke to further explore Plaths juxtaposition of the self-inflicte d violence in the kitchen and the other-inflicted vi olence of war. Plaths juxtaposition of personal violence with public violence allows for an opening out of the standard configurations of the kitchen as insular and private. Throughout Cut Plath sprinkles images of public forms of warfare: Indians axed your scalp; Out of a gap / a million soldiers run; Kamikaze man; Ku Klux Klan ( 235). All of these images of public warfare are sites at which the public breaches the domestic space. For Friedan, the suburban home was a comfortable concentration camp that progres sively dehumanized the housewife (2001, 308). Plath intentionally places persona l experience in dialogue with cu lturally significant traumatic events: I think that personal experience shouldnt be a kind of shut box and a mirror-looking narcissistic experience. I believ e it should be generally relevant to such things as Hiroshima and Dachau, and so on (qtd. in Gill 2004, 61). By el iding personal violence with the historical and national image of war, Plath presents the nati on as unstable and insecure from invaders both foreign and domestic: Current history crowds out the past; the now-bandaged thumb, wrapped in gauze, takes on a number of na tional identities that have threat ened America from without and within during the twentieth century [implying that] American borders were penetrable (Brain 2001, 76). Once the other-inflicted violence of war penetrates the private sphere, the perpetrator and the target of the aggression merge into one. Plaths Cut opens up the kitchen in terms of gender by merging the masculine violence of warfare with the feminine violence of the kitchen. Placed side-by-side, the line between public and private violence becomes blurred. A lliances also become imprecise in Plaths kitchen: Whose side are they on? (1981, 235). This confusion ultimately leads to the degendering of the kitchen space; if we cannot iden tify allies, how can we distinguish between
36 genders? Tracy Brain suggests that the kitchen space is de-gendered even further as Plaths speaker remains irresolvably genderless: By discarding the Amputee and its probable male connotations, by choosing an image that is female to accompany the male veteran, Plath opted for mixed, interderminate gender (2001, 77). Thus as Brain argues, the borders not just of skin and gender, but also of country ar e left unclear by the end of this poem. I would also argue that the borders of the kitchen space become irresolvable as well. Marge Piercys Whats that smell in the kitc hen? opens the space of the kitchen in terms of womens agency. As seen in Plath and Rich s formations of the kitchen space, women have traditionally been given little agen cy within this space; in Piercys kitchen women take agency before they can be denied it. Piercys poem echoes the violence in the kitchen depicted by postwar women poets; however, the recipi ent of the violence shifts from woman to man. In Piercys formation of the domestic, the kitchen functi ons as a space of feminine rebellion: All over America women are burning food theyre supposed to bring with calico smile on platters glittering like wax. Anger sputters in her brainpan, confined but spewing out missiles of hot fat. (1982, 288) Piercy paints a generation of women, unhappy with their confinement in the kitchen, who are on the verge of explosion. Instead of killing the angel in the house, Pi ercys women need to kill the husband: If she wants to serve him anything / its a dead rat with a bomb in its belly (288). The feminine violence which takes place in Pier cys kitchen is different than the violence embodied by Plath and Rich. In Piercys k itchen, the women are not enacting self-inflicted violence, but are using their position to upset traditionally defined power structures. Once seen as a space demanding passivity, in Whats that smell in the kitchen? the kitchen becomes a space of action. Harriet Blodgett questions de Beauvoirs formation of the home, specifically of the kitchen, as a limiti ng space: de Beauvoir may have thought that
37 womans enclosure in the kitchen teaches he r patience and passivity yet writings of the victimization of women are countered by the many pieces that focus on womans strength and ability to resist (2004, 269-70). Piercys violent conception of the kitchen spans America, revealing a general discontent with th e formerly confining kitchen space: Her life is cooked and digested, nothing but leftovers in Tupperware. Look, she says, once I was roast duck on your platter with parsley but now I am Spam. Burning dinner is not incompetence but war. (1982, 288) Piercy exposes the kitchen space and superimposes it upon Americas landscape. In the process Piercy, like Plath, is able to locate the domestic within hist ory placing it alongs ide meaningful events such as war. Julianna Baggotts interrogation of the Kitchen Debates attempts to expand the kitchen by making domesticity a valuable Amer ican attribute and thus securing a significant historical place for the kitchen. Patterson plants the domestic text in history and calls at tention to its importance as a structure that functions as more than a sp ace: The kitchen operate s not only as a physical space, but also as an ideological tool for investig ating larger cultural and historical issues. The act of writing a domestic text does not indicate, as presumed by many literary critics of the past and present, a lack of histor icity (Wheres the Kitchen? 2 001, ix). Aligned with the NixonKrushchev kitchen debate kitchen cu lture becomes an American ideal. Baggott reminds us that the Kitchen Debate s worked to show Americas superiority through the American dream kitchen. The mode l kitchen display in Moscow presented the kitchen as the new iconographic ce nter of [the] house (Marling 1994, 249): The year Nixon showed up in Moscow in front of Macys Mode l Kitchen and finger-poked Khrushchevs broad chest, my mother lost her first baby. Russians crowded the railed-off kitchen, a display of modern American living. (2005, 7)
38 In the cold war era, America wa s a world superpower. The fact that domesticity was a symbolic demonstration of Americas technological prowe ss speaks volumes about the importance of the domestic in formations of American values. As Amy Kaplan contends, T he notion of the nation as a home, as a domestic space, relies structurally on its intimate opposition to the notion of the foreign. Domestic has a double meaning that links the space of the familial household to that of the nation, by imagining both in opposition to ev erything outside the geographic and conceptual border of the home (2003, 59). Through Kaplans configuration of the domestic, the kitchen opens out and becomes a way to interrogate Amer ican patriotism in terms of international relations. At the same time that Baggott presents a posi tive view of the Kitchen Debates influence on opening the domestic sphere and lending political importance to this once private space, she also presents a critique of the type of domesticity that was broa dcast worldwide. By juxtaposing the Macys Model Kitchen with memories the mothers failure at domesticity, Baggott implicitly indicates that the kitchen space represented in th e Kitchen Debates featured the most advanced and functional domestic technology: two angry men and the kitchen so small and tidy, I can only think of my mothers firs t kitchen [. .] a ceramic sink, a Frigidaire, and a Hot Point stove for $75 a month [. .] the Russians are winning the final frontier, and the A-bomb could drop from the sky [. .] but for now my mother is puffy and pale. The bleeding started fast, the tiny child lost in it somewhere she never saw what shed imagined: arms, legs, her own small face and now days later, she shuffles to the cold stove. (2005, 7-8) Baggott uses the kitchen as a way into the inters ections between the wars of the world and the wars which we fight within our own bodies, specif ically the wars betwee n life and death in the womb. Similar to Sextons fusion of house with wife in Housewife, Baggott amalgamates the
39 speakers mother and the kitchen appliances, in sinuating that her mothers womb is a cold stove (8). Baggott creates an extended metaphor of the mothers body as a malfunctioning stove: Its on the blink, a wire coil model; one little wire overheated a nd the whole thing shut down. She turns it off, reaches in, fingers the wires, twist-ties them [. .] She starts up the oven, and as the wires solder themselves, my mother smells smoke; something small is burning (8). Baggotts metaphor, reminiscent of Sextons dehu manized, mechanical housewife, reduces the body to a machine, an object which should perform a certain, proscribed function in order to be effective. Baggott extends the notion of failing domesticit y out from the personal experience of the mother to the validity of Ameri can life in general: But she ha s already begun to doubt things. / She thinks nothing is truly reliable, not her body, / not this easy Amer ican life (2005, 8). Baggott represents womens bodies as intricately connected with the American domestic dream. As Baggott illustrates, womens bodies and American ideals do not always work as they should. Baggott questions the extent to which the domestic ideal had been realized in America in the 1950s; the gap between the dream presented in th e Kitchen Debates and the reality of real womens day-to-day lives can be a gulf too wi de to bridge: To Rich ard Nixon, the latest in kitchen consumerism stood for the basic tenets of the American way of life. Freedom. Freedom from drudgery for the housewif e (Marling 1994, 243). As Baggott illustrates, the American kitchen fell far short of this ideal. A them e of brokenness runs throughout this poem: broken spirit, broken femininity, and broken Americanne ss; wrapped up in a shoddy attempt to fix the shortcomings and weaknesses that ultimate ly lead to destruction. Baggotts broken Americanness reflects the nations vulnerab ility that Plath presents in Cut.
40 MAKING THE PRIVATE PUBLIC At the same time that contemporary women poets are re-figuring the womans role in the kitchen they also interrogate the rigid public / private dichotomy associat ed with the domestic and social spheres. Piercys attempt to make the kitchen a public space is representative of womens contemporary poetry more generall y. Challenging the formation of highly differentiated public and private spheres, cont emporary domestic poetr y destabilizes a once unquestioned and problematic dichotomy. Davi d Bell and Gill Valentine believe that the division between public and privat e is overstated (1997, 31). According to their analysis of the home space, the privacy of a location is not the same as privacy in a location (31). Gaston Bachelard also acknowledges the pa radoxical nature of domesticity ; at once public and private, the house helps us to say: I will be an inhabitant in the world, in spite of the world (Bachelard 1969, 46). For Bell and Valentine the boundaries be tween public and private become blurred in the home based on such shared activities [. .] as cooking and eating (31). Thus, the kitchen and kitchen culture function as the gateway between the priv ate and public realms. Many contemporary women poets use the kitchen space as a means of e xploring both the domestic and larger public issues. Seemingly enclosed within the home, the kitchen space rejects containment. Often a place of social gather ing as well as a life-sustaining place, the kitchen connects the private space of the home and the public space of society. In How I Learned to Sweep Julia Alvarez challenges the p ublic/private dichotomy. She juxtaposes the outwardly trivia l and feminine task of sweepi ng with the more historically influential and masculine task of war. William R. Handley argues that one cannot simply cut off the seemingly most insignifican t domestic acts from the most consequential historical events; the public and the private are not s imply external to each other (3 2). As in Plaths Cut, the
41 kitchen becomes one site at whic h the public and private come into contact. Gmez Ibis Vega classifies Alvarez as an apocalyptist writer, one who uses the histor ical vision and narrative forms of apocalypse to explore the relationship of the individual [and] the community [. .] to the process of history (97). The domestic space becomes both public and de-gendered as the actions of war infiltrate the kitchen wa lls and the historical becomes personal. Placed against a backdrop of the Vietnam wa r, Alvarezs speaker masters a fundamental housekeeping task. As the speaker sweeps, the news of the war penetrates the domestic space: I stepped and swept / the t.v. blar ed the news; I kept / my mind on what I had to do, / until in minutes, I was through (2). However, Alvarez ironically presents the news of the war through the ostensibly domestic space of the White House: I waited for her to return / and turned to watch the President, / live from the White House, talk of war (2). As the President addresses the country, in the Far East our soldiers were / landing in their helicopters / into jungles their propellors / swept like weeds seen underwater (2 ). Alvarez cleverly juxtaposes the calm, protective haven of the domestic space with the chaotic, threaten ing melee of the war front. The speaker in this poem learns to housekeep the clutter of the domestic space and the chaos of the war front simultaneously as the dying soldiers fall upon the kitchen floor: perplexing shots were fired from those beautiful green gardens into which these dragonflies filled with little men descended. I got up and swept again as they fell out of the sky. I swept all the harder when I watched a dozen of them die . as if their dust fell through the screen upon the floor I had just cleaned (2). Alvarezs metaphor of sweeping up the ruins of war culminates with mothers return: She came back and turned the dial; the screen went dark. Thats beautiful
42 she said, and ran her clean hand through my hair, and on, over the windowsill, coffee table, rocker, desk, and held it up. (2-3) The speakers efforts are validated when her mo ther praises her work: I held my breath / thats beautiful she said, impressed, / she hadnt found a speck of death (3). Alvarezs surreal image of the battlefield superimposed on the kitc hen floor creates a palimpsestic effect; literally layering the seemingly disparate and exclusive spaces By insisting that the kitchen is not that unlike the battlefront, Alvarez is able rais e the significance of womens work. Alvarez consistently codes the domestic work of women as influential within a larger context. By examining this act of domestic cleansing, Alvare z is able to extend her commentary beyond the limited, private sphere. Although Alvarez opens up the domestic space by interrogating the at rocities of war through the domestic chore of sw eeping, How I Learned to Sweep ultimately re-inscribes the separation of womens work from mens. Th e poem implies that the work of death is a masculine pursuit while the work of cleaning up, housekeeping the domestic space as well as the battlefield, is feminine work. Ho wever, it can be argued that th is poem attempts to elevate the significance of womens work in the home to the level of mens work on the battle front. In her study on American culinary culture, Inness insist s that the idea that the unimportant domestic sphere is feminine while the important public sphere is masculine still persists in America ( Diner Rolls 2001, 4). Alvarezs poem opens up the tradi tionally feminine tasks of housekeeping and writing domestic poetry a nd questions the long-established belief that womens work is insignificant when placed next to mens work. By linking the kitchen with the battlefield, Alvarez creates a transformative poe tics; a kind of epic domesticity.
43 NO ONE WHO COOKS IS ALONE Within the kitchen space, women are often identified in terms of their relationships to others (they are defined as wive s, mothers, sisters, maids, ho usekeepers, cooks, etc.); and as, Laurie Colwin states: No one who cooks, cooks alone.19 Womens formations of self identity and their experiences within the kitchen are not defined by their aut onomy, but are instead defined by both their interpersonal relationships a nd by their functions within the kitchen space. Domesticity embodies the familial relationships (i.e., mother-daughter, brother-sister, unclenephew, etc.) that develop among those who interact within the home space; these relationships constitute an important aspect of the home scene. Bell and Va lentine describe the domestic space as follows: the home, is both a physical stru cture (for most people) and a site of social reproduction, in and around which acts (eating, sl eeping, sex, cleansing, childrearing) take place. The home is often defined as quintessentially pri vate space, the space of the family (1997, 15). The domestic, then, is not merely concerned with the home as a place / space, but it is also concerned with the social structures that form within that space. As the kitchen space transitioned from the isolating galley design to the open floor plan, the opportunities for privacy within the kitchen b ecame less and less. As Ne lson illustrates, this expanding of the kitchen into other room of the house fostered an incessant sense of familial togetherness (1996, 95). Nelsons conception of th e loss of privacy within the home is loaded with negative undertones. Laurie Colwin embraces the more positive side of relationships within the kitchen space: No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers (qtd. in McLellan 2003, 109). Colwins se nse of the collective 19 The title of this secti on comes from Laurie Colwi n, quoted in Tara McLellan, Small Spaces, Beautiful Kitchens (Gloucester: Rockport Publishers, 2003): 109.
44 discourse surrounding cooking invoke s a spiritual and ancestral characteristic of the kitchen space. Contemporary kitchen poems that hinge on relationships comp licate the nature of domestic relationships; neither completely positi ve nor completely negative, the relationships that take place in the kitchen refi gure that space in interesting ways. Heather Sellers presents the kitchen as a ga thering place for the entire family. In the Kitchen Dancing to Kitty Wells invokes the soci al capacity of the domestic space; the children are playing Starcraft on the comput er at the desk while mom and dad share a bottle of wine and dance to Kitty Wells. For Sellers, the kitchen space is not limited to food preparation and consumption; In the Kitchen Dancing to Kitty Wells opens up the kitchen space in terms of other activities that bring the family together. Sellers bathes the kitchen in a positive, golden glow. However, the light fails to penetrate every corner: I am barefoot. You are never barefoot. The boys pull out my hair clips. I ask them to dance (I ask them to vacuum I ask them to fold), I motion with my arms, dance monster. All that girl smothering. (2005, 120). Sellers plants the housewife in the heart of stereotypica l domesticity: barefoot and smothering the housewife becomes a nagging fi xture in the kitchen. She becomes a dance monster, invoking terror and mobility within cont ainment that moves far from Sextons passive and confined doll image. Although the housewife is able to dance within the domestic space, she is ultimately contained within the traditional, dom estic feminine role. Drawing from images of popular culture, Sellers places the Kitty Wells of the 1950s and 1960s next to the Starcraft of the late 1990s therefore calli ng attention to the anachronistic natu re of this contained woman; she belongs in the s. Although the woman is not alone in the kitc hen, Sellers insinuates that she is the only one who will remain confined there, long after the dancing is done.
45 Moving from the negative tone that underscore s Sellerss anachronis tic housewife to the dark considerations of grief in Diane Lockward s poetry, the kitchen space becomes figured as a place of female desire and sensuality. In Veg etable Love Lockward plays with themes of unrequited love and loss: she was willing to tr y anything, / even magic, even vegetables to keep her lover from leaving (2005, 89). In fr aming male-female relati onships with food and magic Lockward inscribes the kitchen space as one of enchantment. Although the womans efforts are too late and her lover was gone sh e chooses to keep the eggplant that was a symbol of her love and watches it rot: It began to soften, then turned to mush. It liquefied and leaked all over the shelves. It grew mold and began to stink. Each night when he did not come back, she looked at the sodden mess, noted the changes, told herself it was just beginning to work. (90) Lockward is playing with the space of creation and suggesting that it can also house destruction. For Lockward, decay and loneliness come to a do mestic space usually associated with creation, life, and sustenance as well as community and comp anionship. This sense of rot is present in Faith Shearins poetry as well: my mothers kitchen discovered / decay (2005, 126). The formation of the kitchen as a destructive space adds another layer onto the palimpsestic space of the kitchen. Lockwards insistence that the k itchen simultaneously fosters creation, destruction, and renovation speaks to the polyvalent ways in which women function in this space. Lockwards kitchen functions as a metonym for womens poetry more generally in that womens poetry is continuously creating new meanings, de stroying old stereotype s, and renovating outdated myths. In Grief Comes in Smallest Ways Gailmarie Pahmeiers optimistic formation of constructive grief within the kitchen nicely complements Lockwards positively destructive
46 kitchen. Pahmeier codes the kitchen as well as the preparation of meat loaf in terms of intercourse. From the sliding of the egg dow n the sides / of the bowl to marry the other ingredients to the way the wo man massages the meat between her fingers the act of making meat loaf resembles the act of making love (2005, 108). Pahmeier opens the poem with the woman in the kitchen making meat loaf while he r husband watches lovingly from the periphery. The action then shifts from preparing a meal to making love; however, both actions take place in the kitchen space: She calls from the kitchen. He finds her sitting, legs scissored open. [. .] I like the way things smell. (108-9) Pahmeier insists that this passi on only takes place when the woma n makes meat loaf. In this way, Pahmeier merges the private space of th e bedroom with the more public space of the kitchen, and leaves us with the way things smell , all the while associating the womans body with that of the meat loaf (109).
47 THROUGH THE KITCHEN WINDOW At times contemporary womens poetry capture s the public and the private simultaneously, juxtaposing the two extremes within the sa me setting, often thr ough the kitchen window.20 Using the kitchen window as a framework for thei r poetry as well as for their poetic identity, some contemporary women poets saturate their vision with domesticity. Although the kitchen window functions as a suture between the public a nd the private, as Helena Michie argues, the act of framing women embodies various, incongruous meanings: frames can be [. .] ways of keeping women in their place, protection from a hostile world, or definitions of a space from which women can begin to assert their power (1987, 9). Thus, th e act of framing women within the domestic sphere carries the potential for containment as it simultaneously carries the potential for womens agency. In her essay on women and space, Ruth Salvaggio discusses the theoretical importance of the s paces within and between, spaces that [bring] into question the very definition of boundary on which any encl osed space depend[s] (1988, 267). The kitchen can be seen as a liminal space that straddles domesticity and society. As both a frame and a threshold, the kitchen window connotes both stasis and movement. The work women perform in the kitchen space is one avenue of control through which they can escape their unhappiness. In Broom De borah Digges creates a rich sense of lifes difficulties, heartaches, and disappointments and places them against a domestic backdrop. As 20 The title of this section come s from Arlene Voski Avakians Through the Kitchen Window: Women Explore the Intimate Meanings of Food and Cooking (Boston: Beacon, 1997). Through the Kitchen Window is a collection of poetry, recipe s, memoirs, short story excerpts, etc. that interrogate the various and cultured ways women are connected to food and cooking. The impetus behind Avakians collection is the sundry ways in which women are able to act within the kitchen: Think ing about women and food can help us understand how women reproduce or resist and rebel against prevailing ideas of what they should be and codes that determine what they can dogender constructions as varied as the worlds we see when we look in through their kitchen windows (9).
48 life changes and familial relationships evolve, the one constant in this housewifes life is her broom: I have loved the broom I took into my ha nds / and crossed the threshold to begin again (2005, 35). Her connection with th e purgative task of sweeping is the only constant in a life which keeps changing: Once I asked myself, when was I happy? I was looking at a February sky. When did the light hold me and I didnt struggle? And it came to me, an image of myself in a doorway, a broom in my hand, sweeping. (35) Here the task of sweeping acts as a kind of suture that joins vari ous aspects of life and creates a safe space of healing. The threshold in Broom ta kes on various levels of significance. It is at once the connection between the public and domes tic spaces, the beginning of experience, and the gateway into divinity: and so the broom became / an oar that parted waters (36). Like both Harjo and Sexton, Digges invokes the mythical in order to make the womens work of the kitchen culturally important work. In Housekeeping in a Dream Laura Kasisc hke interrogates how the kitchen window functions as both a liberating and confining fram e. Placed within the kitchen, facing the dirty dishes Kasischkes speaker gazes out: The sky is a piece of mind / outside the kitchen window, the dishes / the dirt (66). Kasi schke sets up an interesting visu alization in which the contained artifacts of domesticity merge w ith the boundless features of nature In this image the expansive sky becomes enclosed in the speakers mind a nd the confining grime of the dishes becomes fused with the landscape. Physically confined within the kitchen, the sp eaker is confronted by her mothers spirit: My mother whispers how to do it in my ear make a list, make a meal that will last
49 all week on Sunday, lie to your husband [. . . . . . . . . ] so much of our flesh is flaking away. (66) Here Kasischke captures a moment of matern al inheritance; although the mother-daughter interaction takes place in a dream, there is a sens e of imparted wisdom. In this eerie domestic frame, the mother provides an avenue of limite d liberation in an otherwise restrictive space. Her photo on the wall smiles [. .] / She stands / outside the kitchen window (66). Framed both on the wall and through the kitchen window, th e mother has escaped the confining frames of domesticity only in death. The speaker seems to be trapped in a confining domestic space which she does not want to leave, but also cannot live in. Kasischke leaves us with the sense that the speaker will not have the same narrow experience: there was a meal / [. .] I should have made / but its too late. I take a love for something / to lie to my husband about (67). In this way, the frames of the home are liberating only through lies. However, the frames allow the home, particularly the kitchen, to act as a gateway into the surreal, spiritual world.
50 INSCRIBING THE DAILY But the cage can turn into a house if you hous ekeep it the right way. You housekeep it by working the words just so. -Julia Alvarez. Literature of the kitchen obscures the boundaries of past and present, private and public, self and other, cerebral and co rporal. Reading a recipe, prep aring and consuming it are, in the end, the words and body become one. -Janet Theophano Traditional formations of the womans role in the kitchen have worked to confine women in that space. Some contemporary women s poetry works to question and undermine the traditional gender roles surrounding the kitchen as well as the kitchen space itself. By reinscribing the kinds of work that women do in the kitchen, contemporary women poets depart from post-war formations of domesticity.21 Perceptions of the home have changed drastically since the poet-war period in America; particularly in regard to the kitchen. Definitions of the kitchen as a stifling space have shifted to include more positive images of the work that goes on there. Erika Endrijonas complicates the inge nuity of food preparati on by suggesting that cooking, for women, was supposed to be a means of creativity, yet it was one which was highly constrained and tied up with serving the fa mily (2001, 159). Contemporary women poets reclaim the more creative aspects of work in the kitchen and, often, serving the family becomes a task wrought with agency not oppression. The ki tchen transforms from a space of limited actions surrounding food preparation and consumpti on to one of unlimited possibilities such as 21 The title of this section co mes from Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia Huff, Issues in Studying Womens Diaries: A Critical and Theoretical Introduction, Inscribing the Daily: Critical Essays on Womens Diaries eds. Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia Huff (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996) 120. Bunkers and Huff recognize the multivalent ways in which womens diaries function: Because diaries have often been classified as private texts, they challenge us to question the boundaries between the public and the private; and they encourage us to assess the social, political, a nd personal repercussions of segmenting our lives, our texts, our culture, and our academic discipli nes (2). In the same sense that womens domestic poetry has been classified as inscribi ng the private issues of everyday life, I would like to suggest that a closer look at this genre will reveal the ri chness that Bunkers and Huff find within womens diaries.
51 grieving, escape, sensuality, rebellion, etc. Although contemporary women poets challenge traditional gender roles in the kitchen, the kitchen remains a fraught space. Vacillating between positive and negative re presentations of the kitchen space, the contemporary poets showcased in Sweeping Beauty create a complex image of the ways in which women function within the kitchen. For some, the kitchen and the work they perform there are a means of gaining control within a world of chaos. For others allowing the domestic space to move toward the more natural state of entropy dem onstrates another, differe nt kind of control. According to Marcia Blumberg: While the women transform their domestic kitchens into spaces that function in a polyvalent way, they also revi se conventional representa tions of the notions of housework (1998, 195). Not all of the kitchens represented in Gemins anthology conform to both post-war and contemporary standards of pe rfection, and to good effect. By presenting a variety of acceptable domesticities, some in direct contrast with each other, Gemins collection complicates more simplistic classifications of the ways in which the home and the women who work there function. Working more with domestic poetry that does not center on the kitchen space may prove to be useful in shaping how the once private concerns of the home affect society on a larger scale. Poets such as Laura Kasischke, Rosellen Brow n, Julia Alvarez, Sandra Alcosser, Kimberly Blaeser, and others who ar e represented in Gemins Sleeping Beauty inscribe the poetry of everyday life. Only through a better understanding of how th e home and housework function in womens poetry throughout the twentie th and twenty first centuries can we begin to move toward a more complete configuration of a womens poetic aesthetic.
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57 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Janel M. Cayer received her Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of NebraskaLincoln in December 2004. As a masters student at the University of Florida, Janel has focused her coursework and research on American literature Janel plans to return to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a Doctor of Philosophy candidate in August 2007.