Radical Revision: Rewriting Feminism with This Bridge Called My Back and Kate Rushin’s “The Bridge Poem”

Lizzy LeRudGeorgia Institute of Technology
Vol. 39, No. 2 (Fall 2020), 303-32

This essay argues that self-revision and republication are political as well as aesthetic strategies for feminist women of color, especially poets, writing after the white feminist and Black separatist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. To trace these strategies and uncover their effects, this essay maps the publishing history of “The Bridge Poem” by Kate Rushin, the title poem to This Bridge Called My Back (1981), alongside the poetics and political theories of This Bridge Called My Back editors Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, as well as others including Toni Cade Bambara, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Rita Dove, and Melissa Harris-Perry. With its exhortation to “Stretch or drown / Evolve or die,” Rushin’s poem epitomizes practices of radical self-revision, which are underscored by the fact that the poem takes its own injunction quite literally, changing in structure and diction throughout its publishing history. Attending to the revision practices of Rushin and her cohort reveals that feminist theories of revisionism are themselves the result of these theorists rewriting specific sections of critical texts over time, a practice grounded in their commitment to persistent social justice activism. Ultimately, these women’s writings become creative spaces where authors and others demand and act out political transforma- tions by first transforming texts.

 

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]