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The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  276 ratings  ·  24 reviews

Originally published in the chap book series by Bruno of Greenwich Village in 1915, this renowned volume of poetry presented portraits of women of the period -a mother, prostitute, cabaret dancer, and others-which were wildly radical in their day dominated as it was by Victorian mores. But there is still in these "rhythms" a seething beat of sexuality and vice, whipped up

Paperback, 36 pages
Published December 1st 1994 by Sun and Moon Press (first published 1989)
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Jul 08, 2015 rated it liked it
can be read online here -
J.M. Hushour
An endlessly fascinating person in her own right and a great novelist, Djuna Barnes is not a very good poet. This collection is one of those ones that much was made of at the time of their publication in a collection, heralded as "Lesser-known gems". Always be wary of the term "lesser-known gems", for it often means, "shit for the OCD completist" and this is definitely the case here.
Barnes' has a nice grip on language, but her themes are banal and she's a sonance-rhyming poet, which I can'
Adriana Scarpin
Twilight of the Illicit

You, with your long blank udders
And your calms,
Your spotted linen and your
Slack’ning arms.
With satiated fingers dragging
At your palms.

Your keens set far apart like
Heavy spheres;
With discs upon your eyes like
Husks of tears;
And great ghastly loops of gold
Snared in your ears.

Your dying hair hand-beaten
‘Round your head.
Lips, long lengthened by wise words
And in your living all grimaces
Of the dead.

One sees you sitting in the sun
With the sweeter gifts you had
And didn’t keep,
One grieves that the alters of
Your vice lie deep.

You, the twilight powder of
A fire—wet dawn;
You, the massive mother of
Illicit spawn;
While the others shrink in virtue
You have borne.

We’ll see you staring in the sun
A few more years,
With discs upon your eyes like
Husks of tears;
And great ghastly loops of gold
Snared in yourIllicit
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it
A chapbook of early 20th-century poetry by a cult figure who, according to the brief biography at the end, was close friends with Joyce, among other expatriates who lived in 1920s Paris. This small collection, which could be considered juvenalia, put me in mind of Plath's early poems (but perhaps I don't know enough poets). The rhyming didn't bother me all that much (as it did in, for example, Lyrical Ballads). There is a gothic feel to them, a barely passive venom. Yet, with a title that sounds like the ...more
Sep 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Her first book. She has not expanded, here, into the galaxy she will become. The seed is here, but it is small. Some of the weird, stunning, evil precision---unequaled in English since Shakespeare, I say without blinking---is here, but hardly, tinily. These are ditties. Where is the mind-twisting surgical acidity? The arch, brokenhearted, wicked truth? The grotesque delirium and hilarity?
Almost. Getting dressed. Coming!:

"Though her lips are vague as fancy
In her youth— ...more
Lee Foust
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
8 pithy little verses. Quite affecting despite the archaic use of rhyme. Slightly more guardedly acidic than, say, Dorothy Parker, but also more artsy and taking itself more seriously therefore vulnerable as such cynicism usually is not. I guess a first effort from the unique novelist, playwright, and poet Barnes. Worth the time certainly--not sure if worth the cover price.
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
My first foray into the biting sensuality of Djuna Barnes. There is so much sex and revolution packed in layers into this book of poetry and illustration. It would be considered progressive feminism today, 97 years after it was written. Which is a testament both to Barnes's literary importance and our present society's seeming inability to come to terms with female sexual liberation. It's a hell of a read. It's daring, sensual, polemic, but never accusatory or uncomfortable to read. And Barnes d ...more
Jun 18, 2015 rated it liked it

Corpse A

THEY brought her in, a shattered small
With a little bruised body like
A startled moon;
And all the subtle symphonies of her
A twilight rune.

Corpse B

THEY gave her hurried shoves this way
And that.
Her body shock-abbreviated
As a city cat.
She lay out listlessly like some small mug
Of beer gone flat.
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've been meaning to read Djuna Barnes for years but have been terribly lazy about it. So when I learned she wrote a short poem/art book, I figured that would be the ideal (easy) way to start reading her.

The Book of Repulsive Women - what a great title! I think it's something that would resonate with most women. At some point in all of our lives we've been told that we are repulsive, often for not acting as women are told we should. It's also an interesting title because of its relat
Emily Joyce
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poesie, read-in-2016
The first thing that struck me about reading Barnes's poetry was how it reminded me of my first favorite poet ever, Marianne Moore. The same Modernist tone and the use of Imagism - and of course I flipped over the book and Marianne Moore had written a byline. This collection is like a briefer, chattier, sexed up Moore- but it also lacked Moore's polish and breadth.

It is interesting to consider that Barnes rejected this collection, and the only reason it is still in print is that it w
Kobita Banerjee
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the body talking, but the mouth is outside the body, or perhaps the eyes. The mind is in the frame, the mind is the frame. One is only left to wonder 'is this the poet's mind or mine?'

'And hear your short sharp modern
Babylonic cries.'
Dec 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Djuna Barnes was a writer and journalist in New York and Paris in the 1920's and 1930's. Repulsive Women is a short volume of poetry and illustrations. Now I need to read her novel, Nightwood.
Katie Ross
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Received as a gift from my mentor and friend, this collection of poems is a fine, portable, and beautifully published book.
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short collection of poems from a poet who really deserves to be read more widely. Seriously, she's fantastic.
Patrick Nichols
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art

Though her lips are vague as fancy
In her youth -
They bloom vivid and repulsive
As the truth
Even vases in the making
Are uncouth.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
SOMEDAY beneath some hard
Capricious star-
Spreading its light a little
Over far,
We'll know you for the woman
That you are.

If one is looking for an introduction to Djuna Barnes this is not the place to start. The work consists of 8 short rhythms and 5 drawings and is one of Barnes' earliest published works (first appearing in 1915). Barnes, who would go on to write the brilliant and poetic novel Nightwood (a great achievement), would later try to distance herself from this early work, even suppre
Kelly Buchanan
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who has read Barnes's superb and dizzying "Nightwood" knows the alien spell that she is capable of casting over a reader. It is clear from this volume that Barnes's poems are no different. Earthy and fleshy, yet somehow also preserving a certain sense of removal that lets us glimpse the subjects as somewhat of a voyeur. This feeling causes both discomfort and fascination, an edge which this great writer of the Left Bank walks with the poise of no other. This version holds particularly fon ...more
Mina Widding
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: äger-men-oläst
Bitvis drömlik, en sån där text där man får acceptera att man inte kommer att kunna förstå med intellektet, utan ger sig ut på okänd mark och bara tar in, och även att om man skulle verkligen närläsa, så finns där tusen lager till, detta om de senare novellerna i boken. Död, att dö, dö för egen hand och att döda är starka teman, liksom inte klart uttalade relationer mellan människor. Barn vs gammal, att ta sitt liv i egna händer, att förställa sig eller vara hemlig, likaså. Starka symboler och b ...more
Dec 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Fairly uneven work. There were a few poems here that I read half a dozen times and never could find much meaning in. But there were also a few really fabulous poems I will want to read over and over because they are so full of meaning, "The Personal God" chief among them.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Originally published in 1915. Barnes is a Radical Woman of Herstory.
Dec 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book of poetry cost $0.15 and was not worth it.
May 08, 2016 added it
Debbie Thorson
Nov 29, 2008 rated it liked it
This was fun poetry, very quick to read.
rated it it was amazing
Jul 09, 2015
rated it really liked it
Nov 05, 2018
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Mar 05, 2016
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Nov 15, 2016
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Nov 19, 2012
Jeff Wyonch
rated it it was ok
Jun 24, 2010
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Barnes has been cited as an influence by writers as diverse as Truman Capote, William Goyen, Isak Dinesen, John Hawkes, Bertha Harris and Anaïs Nin. Writer Bertha Harris described her work as "practically the only available expression of lesbian culture we have in the modern western world" since Sappho.

Barnes played an important part in the development of 20th century English language