Look to Your Left

A Feminist Poetics of Spectacle

by Kristina Marie Darling

Size: 6 x 9

Publication date: September 1, 2022


The essays in the collection examine, from a variety of perspectives and conceptual standpoints, the ways performative language in contemporary poetry can be politically charged. The poetic text, then, becomes a spectacle, which ultimately renegotiates the power dynamics implicit in the simple act of looking. As the language unfolds before the reader, they are involved and implicated in a revision of what is and what always has been an unequal share of power on the stage of textual authorship and readerly interpretation. In Look to Your Left: A Feminist Poetics of Spectacle, Darling grounds these ambitious theoretical discussions (and interventions) in poetry by women, nonbinary writers, and writers of color, with a particular emphasis on texts that have been heretofore undertheorized.  

About the Author

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of thirty-six books, which include Look to Your Left:  A Feminist Poetics of Spectacle, which is forthcoming from the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics at the University of Akron PressStylistic Innovation, Conscious Experience, and the Self in Modernist Womens Poetryforthcoming from Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group; Daylight Has Already Come:  Selected Poems 2014 – 2020, which will be published by Black Lawrence Press; Silence in Contemporary Poetry, which will be published in hardcover by Clemson University Press in the United States and Liverpool University Press in the United Kingdom; Silent Refusal:  Essays on Contemporary Feminist Poetryforthcoming from Black Ocean; Angel of the North, which is forthcoming from Salmon Poetryand X Marks the Dress: A Registry (co-written with Carol Guess), which will be launched by Persea Books in the United States.  Penguin Random House Canada will also publish a Canadian edition.  

 Her work has been recognized with three residencies at Yaddo, where she has held the Martha Walsh Pulver Residency for a Poet and the Howard Moss Residency in Poetry; a Fundación Valparaíso fellowship to live and work in Spain; a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, funded by the Heinz Foundation; an artist-in-residence position at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris; six residencies at the American Academy in Rome; two grants from the Whiting Foundation; a Faber Residency in the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities, which she received on two separate occasions; an artist-in-residence position with the Andorran Ministry of Culture; an artist-in-residence position at the Florence School of Fine Arts; a two-month appointment at Scuola Internazionale de Grafica in Venice; and the Dan Liberthson Prize from the Academy of American Poets, which she received on three separate occasions; among many other awards and honors. Dr. Darling serves as Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Press & Tupelo Quarterly.  Born and raised in the American Midwest, she now divides her time between the United States and Europe. 


Advanced Praise for Look to Your Left

With this spirited, penetrating exploration of generative, disruptive trends in contemporary writing, Kristina Marie Darling makes a passionate, detailed and utterly convincing case for forms of language that stand in opposition to entrenched power. Part jeremiad, part exalted appreciation, this incisive collection limns with great clarity the beauty of the wayward, the disruptive, the difficult, the unruly. This is necessary, important work.
–Laurie Sheck

In this brilliantly insightful book, Kristina Marie Darling explores writing and reading as a performative act of resistance intended “to expand what is possible within the boundaries of language.” She skillfully leads the reader to find meaning not just in the language but in the “charged and complex” spaces in between, the “bright apertures” through which the possibility of reclaiming authority and shifting the reader’s gaze shines through. But perhaps most impressive is the moment Darling’s text itself becomes performance, critiquing the academic and pedagogic models through which literature is now made in the hopes of opening new spaces where writers can convey “the realms of experience that are silenced by language.”
–Emma Bolden

Look to Your Left is criticism that cares about individual poems, poets, books, and practices in publishing as devotedly as it invites nothing less than “a revolution in the social order [that] begins in poetic language.” Visual-texts, silence as action, interrogations of the archive, “textual difficulty as a feminist gesture”—these terms should be key in an index of contemporary poetry, and Kristina Marie Darling shows their substantial continuities in recent books by Julie Carr, Solmaz Sharif, Kate Greenstreet, Ilya Kaminsky, Victoria Chang, and many others. “Look to your left, look to your right. One of you won’t make it,” goes the cliché of introductory intimidation. Darling, in contrast, encourages us to look to others so that we might make it through together, allowing “the story to grow wilder.”
–Zach Savich

Look to Your Left:  A Feminist Poetics of Spectacle offers an ethical model of spectatorship and the gaze, as well as a call-to-arms for decolonialized reading practices, based on a reestablishment of the politics, performativity, and semiotic play inherent to language, and the text as an exercise in subversion and intersubjectivity, not a gendered body that denies or grants access to the reader.  Darling’s criticism destabilizes Western and patriarchal reading practices and enables alterity though her focus on poetics of inclusion and dialogue authored by female and non-binary writers who speak the unspeakable and continue to innovate the Modernist canon.  Showing how these poets challenge normative grammars in their lexicons, representations, and literary practices, Darling’s capacious readings and autobiographical afterword indite the covert misogyny of literary culture and open up a vital rhetorical space in our collapsing symbolic order to make legible the work of revolution within poetic language.
–Virginia Konchan

Reviews and Interviews

The Poetry Show interview

Deborah Kalb Book Q&A



Additional information

Pub date



Feminism, Postmodernism, Innovative Writing, Spectacle, The Male Gaze

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