Page Richards publishes on poetry, American literature, and drama. Her essays and articles have appeared in the Harvard Review, the Journal of Modern Literature, The Dalhousie Review and  'After thirty Falls’: New Essays on John Berryman, among many others. Her poems have appeared widely, for example, in The Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead, and Wascana Review. She is the author of Distancing English: A Chapter in the History of the Inexpressible and the founder of the new HKU Black Box Theatre. She has studied and taught at Harvard University and at Boston University, offering courses in poetry, drama, and creative writing. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong.


A 'Different Fix on the Stars'

Readings of Derek Walcott’s Assemblage of Speed and Light in Lyric History

This paper will explore the lens of born retrospection for telling history, a lens from lyric history, rather than narrative background, for engaging history and the arc of a life. To begin, this paper will focus on the anchor of born retrospection for redirecting our attention to an assemblage of history, rooted in new light and new speed from selected poems of Derek Walcott.

A contemporary impatience with the heroic model of telling history is beginning to swell, redirecting attention to how under-recognised practices of lyric can contribute to framing history in our times. This paper will query what we continue to understand as 'lyric' or 'history' and, in particular, the intersections of history with individual history. In this paper, I will look especially at poems that explore new and dramatic relationships between speed and light to represent the formation of histories otherwise unseen. These poems include 'Prelude', 'Endings', 'To Return to the Trees', among others. 

Walcott’s fascination of creating and staging something from nothing, long studied in poststructuralist, postcolonial and new historicist terms, for example, suggests at the same time a painter’s and poet’s fascination with the 'grey' and the overlooked and quieter frames, those shades caught between light and dark that pace history differently and reposition the need for teleologically driven legacies. This angle of history in his work has been rarely studied. 

Ambiguities of Biography

Introducing Rita Dove’s Lyric Life Writing

In considerations of biography and the telling of lives, the history of helplessness and risk represented by the chorus is often overshadowed, especially in more modern contexts of literary criticism by considerations of its dramatic counterparts, the heroic parts, those of will, decision-making, and action. The poet Rita Dove, however, aims with new forms of lyric poetry to redirect our focus and favour historically more ambiguous and anti-heroic perspectives of biography and life writing.

The chorus is often considered the voice of inaction, even disregard: it is a ‘perspective’ offered finally of a group that plays it safe. Traditionally resistant to both risk and change, the chorus thus generically does not make a name for itself, as it coaxes and perpetuates self-protection. The contemporary lyric poems of Dove update the complex work of perspective often associated with the dramatic chorus and its historic role of anonymity and marginality through new work in life writing and biography. Epitomized by but not exclusive to the breakthrough in Thomas and Beulah, Rita Dove’s lyrics offer a fundamental reconsideration of form and history through the very elements of our common helplessness, anonymity, and interdependency.