Julie Kane

Getting Serious About Gail White’s Light Verse

eviews of Gail White’s poetry can be counted upon to make three points. First, that her skills as a light-verse writer put her in the same league with Dorothy Parker and Wendy Cope. Second, that it is next to criminal that there is no full-length collection of her work in print. (A half-dozen small-press chapbooks flickered and died like match-flames from 1975 until the publication of her first book, The Price of Everything, in 2001; but that book, too, quickly went out of print. In an ironic gesture toward its title, one lone seller is currently hawking a used copy on amazon.com for $124.99.[1]) The third point that almost invariably arises is that there is something strangely unsettling about White’s humor.

     Kathleen McDermott compares White to Cope, but then observes that White “lacks Cope’s occasional note of sadness.”[2] After invoking Cope and Parker, critic Robert Darling goes on to remark that in White’s “clear-eyed, slightly-jaded southernness she resembles R. S. Gwynn, but lacks his narrative impulse.”[3] Richard Moore finds “a sour taste in much of Gail White’s best work,” explaining that White is a satirist in an age that lacks a stomach for satire.[4]
Who is allowed to be funny, and toward whom, is no laughing matter: gender and class issues lurk below the surface of even the most casual joke
Even Bruce Bennett, in his adoring “Appreciation of Gail White” for Light Quarterly, notes that there is something different about White’s brand of humor: “The signature characteristics of light verse are on display here, but so is another quality distinctly the poet’s own: an unshakable tough-mindedness rooted in a sense of self-worth and quiet confidence.”[5]

     White is not “sad.” She does not tell stories. Her poetic voice seems unusually tough, self-confident, and astringent. The disturbing quality that all of these critics are pointing to but are not quite able to name is that White violates our cultural norms and expectations for “women’s humor.” By refusing to create a victimized female persona as the target of her own wit, White claims a new authority for the woman light-verse writer: the right to assert herself as a satirist, as a clear-eyed critic of the world around her—a role that men have occupied almost exclusively for more than two millennia.

     Who is allowed to be funny, and toward whom, is no laughing matter: gender and class issues lurk below the surface of even the most casual joke. In her classic study of the use of humor during staff meetings at a psychiatric hospital, sociologist Rose Coser found that:
the senior staff (psychiatrists) most often made junior staff (residents) the target of their witticisms. The junior staff did not reciprocate, most often targeting instead patients or themselves, a pattern also typical of the lower-ranking paramedical staff (psychologists, social workers, sociologists). . . . Also notable was the male contribution of 96 percent (!) of witticisms, despite substantial female representation in all staff ranks.[6]
Coser coined the term “downward humor” to describe the way higher-status persons target those lower in status than themselves as the butt of their humor, while lower-status persons target themselves or those even lower on the totem pole.

     The phenomenon of “downward humor” is obvious in women’s humor writing. Regina Barreca, the editor of The Penguin Book of Women’s Humor and the author of They Used to Call Me Snow White. . . But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor, asserts that:
The self-deprecating joke is considered to be the most “traditional” form of women’s humor. . . . We beat the others to the punch line and render ourselves the victim. This makes people in positions of power comfortable. If we tell these jokes about ourselves, we’ll make the straight, white patriarchal man our pal, because he finds these jokes funny too.[7]
     By way of contrast, even when male humorists make jokes about men’s experiences, they adopt an impersonal strategy rather than using themselves as the subject, according to research psychologist Paul McGhee.[8] In addition to aiming their jokes at themselves, women humorists normally confine the range of their subject-matter to “women’s experiences” rather than addressing politics, society, or other “serious” topics accessible to men. When women do critique the institutions that relegate them to inferior status, they do so in subversive rather than direct ways. The reasons for these phenomena are discussed by Nancy A. Walker in her study titled A Very Serious Thing: Women’s Humor and American Culture. According to Walker, the very concept of “American humor” is based upon the experiences and writings of white males, and “Even when the white male humorist adopts for his own purposes the stance of the outsider. . . he writes with the authority of the insider, the person who is potentially in a position to change what he finds wrong.” In contrast, continues Walker, “humor is at odds with the conventional definition of ideal womanhood. Humor is aggressive; women are passive. The humorist occupies a position of superiority; women are inferior.”[9] Funny women are thus forced to adopt strategies to make their “aggressive” humor more palatable to men and to a patriarchal culture.

     For a woman to be funny at all is to exhibit traits that her society considers “unfeminine.” Cross-culturally, according to Barreca, there exists a very strong link between the sexually knowledgeable or promiscuous woman and the woman who is allowed to crack jokes. The “Bad Girl,” as Barreca calls her, inhabits the margins of polite society, and thus is allowed to bend its rules.[10]

     A further characteristic distinguishing women’s from men’s humor, according to Walker, is that “women tend to be storytellers rather than joke tellers. Humor functions for them more as a means of communication than as a means of self-presentation, a sharing of experience rather than a demonstration of cleverness.”[11] Drawing a link between women humorists’ habit of self-deprecation and their narrative drive, Barreca invokes psychotherapy and other “talking cures,” such as religious confession, in which painful experiences can be healed or transformed by talking about them with others.[12] The narrative form of traditional women’s humor thus serves to complement the subject of the wounded or victimized self, and vice versa.

     Both Dorothy Parker and Wendy Cope have constructed poetic personas that exhibit the conventional traits associated with “women’s humor.” Trading quips around the Algonquin Round Table with the glitterati of the Roaring Twenties, Parker cultivated a public image as a hard-drinking, sexually experienced, wisecracking “Bad Girl.” “One more drink and I’d have been under the host” and “[I’ve been] too f___ing busy and vice versa” were just two of the lines she delivered knowing that they would be captured, reported, and widely circulated.[13] In her poems as in her self-performances, Parker used her “Bad Girl” persona and self-deprecatory humor to comment freely upon the absurdities of sex roles and their consequences. “This, no song of an ingénue, / This, no ballad of innocence,” proclaims the speaker of a typical poem: “Here’s my strength and my weakness, gents— / I loved them until they loved me.”[14] Parker’s wit was strategic: Emily Toth confirms that “Though her wit was often at her own expense, [Parker] nevertheless said what she thought.”[15]

     Cope, too, has provided journalists with biographical details that reinforce the persona she presents in her poems. Like Parker’s, Cope’s persona is defined by her unhappy relationships with men; but whereas Parker adopts a flippant attitude toward the succession of scoundrels in her life, Cope presents herself as lonely, depressed, vulnerable, and looking for love. Each time Cope has published a book of poetry, she has also disseminated a phase-of-life narrative concerning how her relationships with men produced that book’s poems. Cope began writing poems in her late twenties after entering psychoanalysis to cope with her father’s death, her subsequent depression, and a nervous breakdown.[16] The title of her first collection, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (Faber and Faber, 1986), also hints at some sort of link between feelings toward a patriarchal figure (in this case, the famous and much older Movement poet) and Cope’s poetic creativity. Cope told interviewer Robert McCrum that her second book, Serious Concerns (Faber and Faber, 1992), “was written at a very unhappy phase of my life. . . . I was a freelance writer living alone in London and I didn’t have a partner. That combination of circumstances made me very isolated.” The subheading of that same McCrum interview—“Has Wendy Cope mellowed? A settled life with a partner and stepchildren—and her new work—suggest that she has”—illustrates the “happily ever after” phase-of-life narrative released by Cope to contextualize her third book, If I Don’t Know (Faber and Faber, 2001).[17]

     Cope’s thematic material resembles that of Parker, although Cope’s persona is more vulnerable: Gerry Cambridge has called her “a fine poet of relationships, of sexual infatuation and disenchantment.”[18] Like Parker, she plays the “Bad Girl,” relegated to the margins of polite society, in order to earn permission to be funny, and her humor frequently comes at her own expense. “Now can we go to bed?,” Cope’s speaker pleads after listening to a potential lover drone on and on about his support for women’s rights. Midway through the subsequent affair, she is pleased to note that “Some people like sex more than others— / You seem to like it a lot. / There’s nothing wrong with being innocent or high-minded / But I’m glad you’re not.” Ultimately, however, she comes to the self-deprecatory realization that “The course of true love didn’t run / Quite the way I’d planned it. / You failed to fall in love with me— / I couldn’t understand it.”[19]

     Cope’s much-remarked-upon parodies of the styles of famous male poets do not, of course, limit their focus to the narrow range of “women’s experiences,” but because she adopts each male poet’s voice instead of ridiculing him directly, in the voice of her own persona, she does not really threaten the boundaries of acceptable subject matter for women’s humor. Indeed, critic Marta Perez Novales goes so far as to suggest that “By writing [the parodies], Cope is also showing her skill at writing in ‘acceptable male styles,’ and thus [is] seeking acceptance from the establishment.”[20] Similarly, Cope’s lengthy narrative poem “The Teacher’s Tale,”[21] which has a male protagonist, is written in the third person, not a female persona’s voice.

     In contrast to Parker and Cope, Gail White reveals very little about herself in interviews and biographical notes, and what she does reveal counters the “wounded woman” and “Bad Girl” poses we have come to expect from the woman who would be funny. Gail Brockett was born on Easter Sunday in 1945 in Pensacola, Florida. She was an only child, surrounded by a large extended family; her father was a car dealer and her mother a homemaker. She earned a B.A. in English with honors from Florida’s Stetson University, married historian Arthur White, and moved with him first to New Orleans, then to Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. She has worked for many years as a medical transcriptionist, currently (thanks to computers) out of her home.
In contrast to Parker and Cope, Gail White reveals very little about herself.
Childless, she lives with Arthur and their two cats on the banks of Bayou Teche in Breaux Bridge in a storybook English yeoman’s cottage that Arthur designed himself. She has published eight poetry chapbooks and one full-length collection, The Price of Everything (Edwin Mellen Poetry Press, 2001), and has edited the anthologies The Muse Strikes Back (co-edited with Katherine McAlpine, Story Line Press, 1997) and Kiss and Part (Doggerel Daze, 2005). The only author’s photograph on any of White’s nine single-authored collections appears on the back of the chapbook Irreverent Parables (Border-Mountain Press, 1978). Short-haired and attired in horn-rimmed glasses, a tailored shirt, and dark slacks, the young White gazes unsmilingly at the camera, her chin resting on one hand in a pose reminiscent of “The Thinker.” The very furniture in the room around her—a wicker peacock chair—seems more concerned about making a splashy impression than the poet.

     In her verse as in her public persona, White steers clear of confessionalism. Her “Confessional Poem” begins by announcing, “Let me confess: I’ve never been abused, / poked by lascivious uncles, burned by cigarette / lighters, tied to the bed. I’ve never used / a drug more powerful than anisette” (33).[22] The poem’s speaker goes on to claim full responsibility for her own shortcomings. In “No Epitaphs, Please,” White in the stance of a poetry editor[23] “respectfully requests / no poems about your father’s terminal cancer, / your mother’s fatal stroke, / your best friend’s death / by suicide.” The reason for her harsh policy, she explains, is that “When you care / too much, you lose your head” (28). “Partying with the Intelligentsia” is a villanelle about entertaining drunken poets at home. White’s annotation to the poem in the chapbook Greatest Hits 1981-2001 (Pudding House Publications, 2002), in which she describes hiding her best liquor under the sink in a bottle labeled “CLOROX” when the New Orleans poets came over[24], makes it clear that she does not consider herself to be one of their woozy number. The haze of mental dysfunction is, alas, no more of an option than the haze of alcoholism: in the poem “Breaking Down in the South,” White’s speaker laments that although her aunts and uncles all flaunted glamorous nervous breakdowns, Prozac seems to have rendered the once-fashionable nervous breakdown extinct. Although her wish is “to be eccentric, batty, somewhat daft, / covered by Aunt Leona’s mental mist. / Again, my generation gets the shaft: / I’m due for a breakdown, and they don’t exist” (7).

     One can find a handful of poems about painful or disappointing life experiences scattered throughout White’s collections, but even in those she places herself under scrutiny as if she were a bug under a microscope. In “My Personal Recollections of Not Being Asked to the Prom,” she admits that she “never minded my unpopularity / in those days,” but that her poor mother “must have wondered where she got this stuffy / daughter” (17). “Sea-Child” takes up a similar theme of a mother who “wished for a mermaid daughter” but got one whose “glaucous tail would fork and unfold / into commonplace legs.” The girl’s legs consign her to a lifetime of clerical work rather than mermaid-dom; she does sometimes “hear with pain / those wailing, luring, feminine voices / singing far off in the rain” (9), but understands and accepts that she is not one of the mermaids’ kind. Though the pain surfaces at times, it is borne with stoicism. White’s less-than-exciting clerical job pops up again in “White Collar Blues”: “I thought the office jobs were just until / I made it as a writer. Hoo ha.” But, in the end, her advice to her would-be hubristic self—“When all illusion ends, / desire of greatness was a godlike sin” (29)—is as brisk, no-nonsense, and get-on-with-your-life as her advice to a drunken Orpheus weeping into his beer over lost Eurydice: “Real poets / can learn to love again” (“How Orpheus Grew Old,” 34).

     Parker and Cope mine most of their poetic material from the same vein of dashed romantic illusions; but White never succumbs to such flights of fancy, and thus is never let down. That fixity of attitude is what gives White’s work its static, lyric feel, as opposed to the gendered “story line” of hopeful beginning, disillusioning middle, and inevitable end that one keeps encountering in Parker’s and Cope’s poems about romantic relationships. (Conscious, herself, of the presence of that narrative arc in her work, Parker titled one short poem “Two-Volume Novel;” its entire text reads, “The sun’s gone dim, and / The moon’s turned black; / For I loved him, and / He didn’t love back.”[25] ) “There is no cherished illusion that does not wilt under her scrutiny,” declared Alfred Nicol of White, introducing her as a speaker.[26] Indeed, White holds no illusions even about being stripped of illusions, as can be seen in this excerpt from a recent personal communication:
My loved ones have been calling me a cynic for a long time. (Once, when I told a friend I had been a loving and confiding child, I received the withering reply, “That wasn’t you.”) Cynical is not the term I would apply to myself—I prefer such phrases as “stripped of illusions.” I often feel like the Somerset Maugham character “Jane” who acquired a reputation for wit simply by telling the truth. When I’m giving a reading I often find that people laugh at surprisingly harsh things—just because the truth is so unexpected.[27]
Like male satirists from the Classical age through the present, White assumes the authority to speak directly to her audience about things that are true without first “qualifying” for the reader’s tongue-clucking sympathy.

     White’s cynicism is perhaps most apparent in her poems about the two subjects most dear to sentimentalists: children and God. One poem about the nastiness of children is fittingly titled “The Last Illusion.” Children “can manipulate and lie / as handily as I and you,” she explains, “and if you think they can’t be bribed, / try what a pony ride will do” (13). The title of “For My Niece As She Enters Her Teens” would lead one to expect a touching ode to childhood innocence on the eve of womanhood; but instead, White snaps, “Children are savages,” and goes on to caution her niece not to fall into the trap of thinking that she and her adolescent peers invented sex, drugs, and parent-alienating music: “Your aunt and uncle didn’t come to town / on a load of melons. They discovered sex / without your help; they drove their elders wild / with music, alcohol, and politics” (11). Not only are children rotten human beings, but their hidden biological agenda is to replace their parents’ generation, White complains in another poem. While her fellow office mates are cooing over an eight-week-old baby, White’s speaker (like the thirteenth fairy godmother who was not invited to the christening) is hissing, “The brain inside that fuzzy head / will read and brood when I am dead, / add up its checks and order drinks / and say the Opposition stinks / and ponder love, and fame, and chance, / while I am fertilizing plants” (5).

     White is the George Herbert of unbelief: master of the short, direct, plainspoken, beautifully crafted lyric about God—faith in God, in Herbert’s case, but honest doubt, in White’s.[28] “Faith was a gift that died with Gothic,” she writes in “Bavarian Baroque” (61). Gothic cathedrals, in her poem of the same title, are “like God’s love letters: / something He can read and say / Anyway, they loved me once” (59). That White uses a simile and not a metaphor for the latter comparison makes it all the more moving in its tentativeness.

     It is not that White’s speaker does not want to believe: but wanting to believe and believing are two separate things. In “Nature Poem,” she describes a particularly lovely night of stars, fireflies, and a crescent moon reflected in her backyard bayou: “things were so beautiful I felt like having / a mystical experience, either Buddhist / or Russian Orthodox, and breaking out in / haiku all over. // But as it was, there was a cool wind blowing / over the bones of unbelief, releasing / spiritual forces long unused, and driving / off the mosquitoes” (52). Furthermore, organized religion holds little appeal for White’s speaker. The entire text of the poem “Joining the Church” reads as follows: “The best way to keep warm / in the snow / is to slit open the carcass / of a freshly dead / animal / and crawl inside.”[29] Complicating things still further, American capitalist culture, fueled by consumer greed and false advertising, holds up a mocking mirror to any sincere gesture toward belief. In “Anthropomorphism,” White mixes Madison Avenue in with theology. Faced with the perpetual problem of the Devil’s Bad-Boy charisma relative to that of the “old man with a long beard and a throne,” a team of advertising executives decides to spin a new image for the Lord, “something like Gielgud’s Hamlet: / young and handsome, a little incompetent / and prone to inaction when his friends need help, / but basically well-meaning.” The plan works: “That day,” reports White’s speaker, “we laughed at poverty and made friends / with death: we felt so safe in such young hands.”[30]

     And the reader feels so safe in White’s hands that White is allowed to venture into territory normally off limits to the woman humorist. Politics, for example: the epigram “On Louisiana Politics” observes that “The politician, like the tabby’s young, / Attempts to clean his backside with his tongue” (69). When White’s poem “The Destruction of Sodom” was first published in 1978, it carried the titular notation “(written during Watergate).” Although White chose to drop the notation when the poem was reprinted in Fishing for Leviathan four years later, knowing the poem’s political context makes it far more meaningful that, once again in history, “there were not righteous men enough / to save the land alive.”[31] The poem “Boomers on a Cruise” critiques the materialism of White’s Boomer generation, the same one that once protested the Vietnam War, joined the Peace Corps, and populated communes. Now, she says, “We build up shelves against the tide: / our luxuries, our work-out tapes. / But slowly we burn down inside, / and find there are no fire escapes” (20).

     White, like Cope, skewers many well-known poets, but White does so in her own voice, while Cope disguises her agency behind the ventriloquist’s technique of parody and attributes most of her parody-poems to her fictional male alter ego, “Jason Strugnell.” In fairness, however, White’s male targets are all long dead, whereas many of Cope’s are still kicking. Still, White is so open and direct about the issue of women writers wrestling with a mostly male canon of poetic models that she has edited (together with Katherine McAlpine) an entire anthology of poems devoted to the subject, The Muse Strikes Back (Story Line Press, 1997). Among the male poets that White addresses in her own verse (not to mention her book covers: Poets & Such[32] features a bust of Poe with a raven dancing on its head) are Robert Herrick, Robert Frost, A. E. Housman, Walt Whitman, T. S. Eliot, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge—some with affection, but some with gleeful malice. In “Corinna’s Not Going A-Maying,” for example, White has Herrick’s lady tell him, “Death’s night is long, but last night isn’t over. / Pack it in, Bob. I’m going back to bed” (41).

     Cope’s lone poem about another woman writer, “Emily Dickinson,” is less about Dickinson than it is about the standardization of punctuation since Dickinson’s time. White, however, revels in the politically incorrect pursuit of poking fun at female literary icons from Anne Bradstreet through Anne Rice. In the poem “Searching for Muses,” she manages to jab Bradstreet (“What can a post-modern poet do / with a pious domestic wife like you?”), Dickinson (“. . . with a sad neurotic cliché like you?”), and Edna St. Vincent Millay (“. . . with a wayward scatterbrained nymph like you?”), while finding the stoned, red-eyed Coleridge to be an acceptable muse—particularly since Dorothy Wordsworth, who has somehow managed to pass White’s muster, “liked him, too” (47). It is not that White is anti-feminist, but rather, that she shares Coleridge’s “(now rather unfashionable) view that ‘great minds’ are androgynous.”[33] White lists Parker and Cope, as well as Dickinson, among her favorite poets, the others being Tennyson, William Butler Yeats, A. E. Housman, John Betjeman, and Samuel Hoffenstein.[34]

     In the course of examining the conventions of light-verse writing by women, it should be noted that light verse, in general, is structured on the “male” principle of closure, rather than on the “female” quality of open-endedness identified by feminist literary critics. “A feminine textual body,” Hélène Cixous has explained, “is recognized by the fact that it is always endless, without ending: there’s no closure, it doesn’t stop. . . .”[35] But humor always has a punchline, and the poetic forms that serve as the best vehicles of humor—particularly the rhymed couplet and the Shakespearean sonnet ending in a rhymed couplet, two forms at which White excels—snap shut like steel traps each time a rhyme is completed, imparting a sense of completeness to the preceding thought. White’s closing lines fire like stun-gun darts into the reader’s brain: not since Robert Frost has a poet produced such thoroughly memorable endings. Here is a small sampling of them:
That’s why I’d rather write best-selling trash
than straighten out the twisted strands of love
in fourteen trenchant lines, or wax profound
on how we’re all so short a time above,
so long below the ground. (“Cursed by the Muse,” 27)

Spring’s on the loose: the shrill cicada feels
its pull, the dragonfly absorbs its rays.
A million voices cry, “More days! More days!”
and heaven answers them: “No deals. No deals.” (May Song,” 53)

Nothing is wrong with the earth, the silent bed
of bone on bone.
Have you ever been as happy standing up
as lying down? (“Gravity, Grace,” 75)
When these three endings are shorn of the very funny lines that precede them, it suddenly becomes apparent that White, in her “light verse,” is taking on the Big Subjects that now frighten off most postmodern writers of “serious” poetry. Once again, she is challenging and pushing back the traditional limitations of her chosen genre.

     Dorothy Parker, Wendy Cope, and Gail White together form a brilliant triumvirate among the ranks of modern light-verse writers, male or female. Yet, by refusing to play the role of victim or to restrict the range of her subject matter to “women’s experiences,” White goes beyond Parker and Cope to claim new territory and a new authority for women writers of light verse. Fools may rush in where angels fear to tread—but then, it was never an angel’s job to make us laugh at the painful truth about ourselves.


1. White freely admits that, seeing an opportunity at hand and seizing it, she once went online offering one of her few remaining copies for half of the rival’s price and found a willing buyer.

2. Kathleen McDermott, “Play for Modest Stakes,” review of four books including The price of everything, by Gail White, The Dark Horse 72 (Spring 2004), accessed 30 Mar. 2006. LINK.

3 .Robert Darling, review of The price of everything, by Gail White, Expansive Poetry & Music (EP&M) Online Review, archives Oct. 1996-Oct. 2003, accessed 17 Apr. 2006, LINK.

4. Richard Moore, review of The price of everything, by Gail White, Edge City Review 17, accessed 17 Apr. 2006, LINK.

5. Bruce Bennett, “Not Philosophers or Angels: An Appreciation of Gail White,” Light Quarterly 27 (Winter 1999), 52.

6. Robert H. Provine, Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (New York: Viking, 2000), 29-30.

7. Regina Barreca, They Used to Call Me Snow White. . . But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor (New York: Viking, 1991), 23, 25.

8. Barreca, 25.

9. Nancy A. Walker, A Very Serious Thing: Women’s Humor and American Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 11-12.

10. Barreca, 50.

11. Walker, Preface, xii.

12 Barreca, 22.

13. Dorothy Parker, qtd. in Stuart Y. Silverstein’s Introduction to Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker (New York: Scribner Poetry, 1996), 37-38.

14. Parker, “Ballade at Thirty-Five,” The Collected Poems of Dorothy Parker (New York: Modern Library, 1936), 60-61.

15. Emily Toth, “A Laughter of Their Own: Women’s Humor in the United States,” American Women Humorists: Critical Essays, ed. Linda A. Morris (New York: Garland Publishing, 1994), 95.

16. Gerry Cambridge, “Wendy Cope (1945- ),” British Writers: Supplement VIII, ed. Jay Parini (New York: Scribner’s, 2003), 68.

17. Wendy Cope, Happiness writes good poems: Interview by Robert McCrum, The Observer 3 June 2001.

18. Cambridge, 71.

19. Cope, “From June to December,” Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (London: Faber and Faber, 1986), 21-25.

20. Marta Perez Novales, “Wendy Cope’s Use of Parody in Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis,” Miscelanea: A Journal of English and American Studies, 15 (1994), 481-500.

21. White, “The Teacher’s Tale,” If I Don’t Know (London: Faber and Faber, 2001), 55-76.

22. Unless stated otherwise, the quotations from White’s work are from The Price of Everything.

23. White was the longtime poetry editor of The Piedmont Literary Review.

24. White, Greatest Hits 1981-2001 (Johnstown, OH: Pudding House Publications, 2002), 6.

25. Parker, “Two-Volume Novel,” Collected Poems, 144.

26. Alfred Nicol, Introductory remarks before a poetry reading by Gail White, Newburyport Art Association, Newburyport, MA, 16 October 2002.

27. White, “More Answers,” email message to the author, 16 April 2006.

28. White chose to quote two lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson as an epigraph to her chapbook Fishing for Leviathan (Belfast, ME: Wings Press, 1982): “There lives more faith in honest doubt, / Believe me, than in half the creeds.”

29. White, “Joining the Church,” Irreverent Parables, Illus. Loyd Littlepage (Benson, AZ: Border-Mountain Press, 1978), 24.

30. White, “Anthropomorphism,” Irreverent Parables, 18.

31. White, “The Destruction of Sodom,” Irreverent Parables, 20.

32. White, Poets & Such (Concord, CA: Small Poetry Press, 1999).

33. White, “Two Quick Questions & (Furry) Baby Pic,” email message to author, 18 May 2006. White is paraphrasing a remark made by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1832—“The truth is, a great mind must be androgynous”—which was subsequently published in Talk of S. T. Coleridge (1835), edited by Henry R. Coleridge.

34. White, “Q&A,” email message to the author, 15 April 2006.

35. Hélène Cixous, “Castration or Decapitation?,” Contemporary Literary Criticism, ed. Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer (New York: Longman, 1989), 488.

A Gail White Bibliography

Bosworth, Martha, Rhina P. Espaillat, Barbara Loots, and Gail White. Landscapes with Women: Four American Poets. Ed. Gail White. Canton, CT: Singular Speech Press, 1999.

White, Gail. The Price of Everything. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Poetry Press, 2001.


---. Pandora’s Box. San Jose, CA: Samisdat, 1976.

---. Irreverent Parables. Illus. Loyd Littlepage. Benson, AZ: Border-Mountain Press, 1978.

---. Fishing for Leviathan. Belfast, ME: Wings Press, 1982.

---. All Night in the Churchyard. Self-published, 1986.

Loots, Barbara, and Gail White. Sibyl and Sphinx. Kansas City, MO: Rockhill Press, 1988.

White, Gail. Poets & Such. Concord, CA: Small Poetry Press, 1999.

---. Greatest Hits 1981-2001. Johnstown, OH: Pudding House Publications, 2002.

---. Ignoble Truths. Louisville, KY: Scienter Press, 2006.

Edited Collections:

White, Gail, ed. Kiss and Part: Laughing at the End of Romance and Other Entanglements. Illus. Dale White. Cupertino, CA: Doggerel Daze, 2005.

McAlpine, Katherine, and Gail White. The Muse Strikes Back: A Poetic Response by Women to Men. Ashland, OR: Story Line Press, 1997.


Julie Kane teaches at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  Her second full-length poetry collection, Rhythm & Booze (University of Illinois Press, 2003) was selected by Maxine Kumin as a winner in the National Poetry Series and was a finalist for the 2005 Poets’ Prize.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as The Southern Review, The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Verse Daily, Feminist Studies, Light Quarterly, and The Formalist, as well as in various anthologies.  Recent honors include a Fulbright Scholarship in creative writing and a Pushcart Prize nomination.


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32 Poems
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