Terese Svoboda on her biography of Lola Ridge Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet (for Lithub).
Lola Ridge (1874-1941) was a very prominent proletariat modernist poet—the New York Times said at the time of her death that she was one of the best poets in the country–but proletariat modernism as a movement was buried under the anti-liberal, anti-female, and anti-experiment sentiments of the WWII period and the McCarthyism that followed. Good friends with William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Hart Crane and Jean Toomer, Ridge’s legacy was not restored due to a continued critical disdain for political poetry, a devaluation of women’s contributions to the genre and the revival of formal poetry. It didn’t help that for forty years the executor had control of her papers and promised to write her biography and publish her collected works, but did neither.
When I tackled Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet, I had the advantage of having published five novels and Black Glasses Like Clark Kent, a memoir that won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. I’d never written nonfiction of any length when I wrote the memoir—but I had those novels. Given the provocative material I was investigating—that of the justice system and possible illegal executions of black GIs—I desperately wanted my research to be taken as truth, which made casting the material as a novel not an alternative. I had also published six books of poetry so when it came to binding together the research, taped reminiscences, interviews, and my life, I was familiar with how the long lyric poem could encompass strategies of contradiction and elaboration, contain “information,” accommodate some digression, multiple sources, and self-reflexive commentary. In the end, I even used footnotes, which prepared me for my dive into biography.
Published / Digitised / Open Access
Terese Svoboda on her biography of Lola Ridge Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet
Terese Svoboda is an American poet, novelist, memoirist, short story writer, librettist, translator, biographer, critic, and videomaker. She is the author of five collections of poetry, five novels, a novella and stories, a memoir, and a book of translation. Her biography on the poet Lola Ridge Anything That Burns You is available in paperback now.