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Rikki Ducornet

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Rikki Ducornet
BornErica DeGre
(1943-04-19) April 19, 1943 (age 81)
Canton, New York, U.S.
Alma materBard College
SubjectSexuality, religion
Literary movementSurrealism, postmodernism

Rikki Ducornet (/ˈrɪki dkɔːrˈn/; born Erica DeGre; April 19, 1943)[1][2] is an American writer, poet, and artist. Her work has been described as “linguistically explosive and socially relevant,”[3] and praised for “deploy[ing] tactics familiar to the historical avant-garde, including an emphasis on gnosticism, cosmology, diablerie, bestiary, eroticism, and revolution, to produce an astounding body of work, cogent and ethical in its beauty and spirit.”[4]


Rikki Ducornet was born in Canton, New York. Gerard DeGré, Ducornet's father, was a professor of social philosophy, and her mother Muriel hosted community-interest programs on radio and television.[5] Ducornet was raised in a multicultural household as her father was Cuban and her mother was Russian-Jewish.[6] Ducornet's father encouraged her to read books by authors such as Albert Camus and Lao Tzu, and to pursue an exploration of knowledge.[6] Alice in Wonderland was an especially formative book, and inspired her 1993 novel The Jade Cabinet, in which Lewis Carroll is a major character. Ducornet's father also taught her rumba at the age of ten.[6] Ducornet spent part of her childhood in Egypt, the setting for her 2003 novel Gazelle, after her father received an invitation to teach at the University of Cairo.[7] Ducornet also spent two years in Algeria in the mid-1960s after the Algerian war of Independence.[7]

Ducornet grew up on the campus of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, in New York, earning a B.A. in Fine Arts there in 1964.[8] While at Bard she met Robert Coover and Robert Kelly, two authors who shared Ducornet's fascination with metamorphosis and provided early models of how fiction might express this interest. In 1972 she moved to the Loire Valley in France with her then husband, Guy Ducornet, where she lived for the next eighteen years. As a young girl, Ducornet dreamed of being a visual artist and it wasn't until she moved to France with her husband that she began to seriously think about writing.[6] Being in Europe brought out something new: as Ducornet explained, “I was acutely aware of language”.[6] It was in France too, that she raised her son, Jean-Yves Ducornet, who later became a noted composer/arranger/producer.[9] In 1988 she won a Bunting Institute fellowship at Radcliffe, and in 1989 accepted a teaching position in the English Department at the University of Denver.[10] In 2007, she replaced retired Dr. Ernest Gaines as Writer in Residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.[11] Ducornet currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.[12]

Ducornet is the subject of the Steely Dan song "Rikki Don't Lose That Number."[13] Steely Dan singer Donald Fagen had met her while both were attending Bard College.[13] Ducornet says they met at a college party, and even though she was married at the time, he gave her his number. Ducornet was intrigued by Fagen and was tempted to call him, but she decided against it. She later told an interviewer, "Philosophically it's an interesting song; I mean I think his 'number' is a cipher for the self."[14][15]


Ducornet is known for her writing characterized by motifs of nature, Eros, abusive authority, subversion, and the creative imagination.[16] Ducornet hand writes the drafts of her books with pen and ink and when writing, Ducornet does not begin with a set plot but rather derives her stories from the hearts of her subjects.[6] In Ducornet's first book, The Butcher’s Tales, she dealt with ideas of “conveying moral understanding, a visceral need to confront abusive Authority in its many forms, and to fully engage the beautiful”, all themes that reoccur in her later work.[17] In addition to being known as a writer, Ducornet also works in the mediums of painting and printmaking.[16] Ducornet has illustrated books by Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Coover, Forrest Gander, Kate Bernheimer, and Anne Waldman among others.[12] A collection of Ducornet's papers, including prints and drawings, are in the permanent collection of the Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library,[12] with further papers at the University of California San Diego library. In 2017, Ducornet partnered with multimedia artist Margie McDonald in a collaborative installation show at the Northwind Arts Center in Port Townsend.[18] The show exhibited a series of 25 foot long painted scrolls hand painted by Ducornet and multimedia wire sculptures by Margie McDonald.[18] These scrolls were painted during a month long residency at the Vermont Studio Center prior to Ducornet and McDonald's collaboration.[18] Her art has also been exhibited in Amnesty International’s travelling exhibit “I Welcome,” in support of the world’s refugees.

Ducornet uses themes of nature and magic in many of her works. Ducornet’s Tetralogy of Elements was influenced by the ancient idea of the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air. Each of the four elements are featured in The Stain (1984), Entering Fire (1986), The Fountains of Neptune (1989), and The Jade Cabinet (1993), respectively. Ducornet’s book Phosphor In Dreamland, is sometimes included alongside the original tetralogy as presenting a fifth element, being light or dream.[19]

Ducornet was influenced by surrealism and has written about the movement. She wrote the foreword to Penelope Rosemont’s Surrealist Experiences: 1001 Dawns, 221 Midnights (Black Swan Press, 2000). In addition, Ducornet is a contributor to (on “Imagination”) and the subject of an entry in the three-volume International Encyclopedia of Surrealism; for her entry in the latter, Ducornet told critic Michelle Ryan-Sautour that she did not know “what it means to ‘do’ surrealism. I do know, however, that my process is informed by, energized by, sparked . . . by memory, dreams, reflection AND HAZARD and intuition, EROS above all. . . . Surrealism has been an embodiment of some kind, a luminous . . . haunting. It is the name of the country where I was born.”[20]



Short fiction collections
  • The Butcher's Tales (1980)
  • The Complete Butcher's Tales (1994)[22]
  • The Word 'Desire' (1997)
  • The One Marvelous Thing (2008)
Anthologies edited
Children's books

Further reading[edit]

  • Evenson, Brian. “Reading Rikki Ducornet.” CONTEXT no. 22 (2008): 6-7.
  • Forester, G. N. and M. J. Nicholls, eds.Rikki Ducornet. Festschrift Volume 4. Singapore: Verbivoracious Press, 2015.
  • Innes, Charlotte. “Through the Looking-Glass.” Nation, 6 June 1994, 809-12.
  • Moore, Steven. “Publishing Rikki Ducornet.” In My Back Pages: Reviews and Essays. Los Angeles: Zerogram Press, 2017.
  • Nikiel, Julia. “Airing The Jade Cabinet: Aerial Imagination in Rikki Ducornet’s Fourth Elemental Novel.” Roczniki Humanistycze 67.11 (2019): 109-20.
  • Nikiel, Julia. “Drowning in Rikki Ducornet’s The Fountains of Neptune”, Fafnir: Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research 2.2 (2015): 19-33.
  • Noheden, Kristoffer. “Magic Language, Esoteric Nature: Rikki Ducornet’s Surrealistic Ecology.” in Surrealist Women’s Writing: A Critical Exploration, ed. Anna Watz. Manchester University Press, 2021.
  • Praet, Stijn, and Anna Kérchys, eds. The Fairy-Tale Vanguard: Literary Self-Consciousness in a Marvelous Genre. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019.
  • Resnick, Rachel. “A Conversation with Rikki Ducornet.” In The World Within, ed. Portland: Tin House Books, 2007, 123-40.
  • Richard Powers/Rikki Ducornet Issue. Review of Contemporary Fiction 18.3 (Fall 1998): 110-230.
  • Trendel, Aristi. “Rikki Ducornet Revisits Hawthorne: The Stain or a Time for ‘Sexts.’” Baltic Journal of English Language, Literature and Culture 3 (2013): 96–108.


  1. ^ Gregory, Sinda (1998). "Finding a Language: Introducing Rikki Ducornet". The Review of Contemporary Fiction: 110.
  2. ^ Something about the Author. Gale Research. 1975. ISBN 978-0-8103-0062-0.
  3. ^ "Ducornet Reading". The Tuscaloosa News. Dec 2, 2004. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  4. ^ Joseph Houlihan, “Cosmic Rebellion in Traffik
  5. ^ Love, Barbara J. (1970). Foremost Women in Communications: A Biographical Reference Work on Accomplished Women in Broadcasting, Publishing, Advertising, Public Relations, and Allied Professions. Foremost Americans Publishing Corporation. ISBN 978-0-8352-0414-9.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Paz, Diane Urbani de la (2011-04-24). "PENINSULA WOMAN: Prolific Port Townsend artist, writer Rikki Ducornet explores transformation". Peninsula Daily News. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  7. ^ a b david (2016-07-20). "Rikki Ducornet : Brightfellow". Between The Covers. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  8. ^ Ducornet, "Class of '64," in Rikki Ducornet, ed. G. N. Forester and M. J. Nicholls (Singapore: Verbivoracious Press, 2015), p. 85
  9. ^ I Am Jeeve. He has been nominated for a Grammy three times, and won once.
  10. ^ Gregory, Sindra. "Finding a Language: Introducing Rikki Ducornet" The Review of Contemporary Fiction Fall 1998.
  11. ^ "Writers-in-Residence". 1 September 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  12. ^ a b c "Rikki Ducornet". Lannan Foundation. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  13. ^ a b McCormack, J.W. (May 20, 2016). "The Burden of Strangeness: Rikki Ducornet". PWxyz, LLC. Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  14. ^ "The story behind Steely Dan song 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number'". 2021-10-02. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  15. ^ Steven Moore, "Reveries of Desire: An Interview with Rikki Ducornet," Bloomsbury Review, January/February 1998, rpt. in The VIP Annual 2016 (Singapore: Verbivoracious Press, 2016), p. 89. In a later email to Moore (18 December 2021), Ducornet added: "I do think of it as a koan for the self: maybe Fagen intuited that at the time we met I was, indeed, losing MY number."
  16. ^ a b "rikki ducornet". rikki ducornet. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  17. ^ "INTERVIEW I Rikki Ducornet by The Editors | The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review". Eckleburg. 2015-01-30. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  18. ^ a b c "CRAZY HAPPY: Painted Scrolls by Rikki Ducornet & Sculpture by Margie McDonald". Numéro Cinq. 2016-07-05. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  19. ^ Watz, Anna (2021-01-12). Surrealist women's writing: A critical exploration. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-1-5261-3204-8.
  20. ^ The International Encyclopedia of Surrealism (Bloomsbury, 2019), vol. 2, p. 249.
  21. ^ a b Sleeman, Elizabeth, ed. (2004) [1934]. International Who's Who of Authors and Writers (19th ed.). Europa Publications. p. 151. ISBN 1-85743-1790. ISSN 1740-018X.
  22. ^ The Dalkey Archive paperback edition of 1999 added two new stories, "Egyptian Gum" and "The New Zoo."
  23. ^ Bernheimer, Kate (24 August 2010). "Horse, Flower, Bird". Coffee House Press. Retrieved 2 October 2017 – via Amazon.

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