Focusing on examples of Djuna Barnes's late published poetry—“Quarry” (1969), “Rite of Spring” (1982), and Creatures in an Alphabet (1982)—this article considers the contradictory ways these poems engage with theories of late style. Barnes's late output offers a unique and somewhat ambivalent case study for examining how the privileging of difficulty and discordance are met and informed by the lived realities of aging and longevity. Paying attention to the publication history of each poem, this article first examines Barnes's redrafting process for “Rite of Spring,” which has been recently reassessed as a conscious, avant-garde experiment, one this article suggests embraced lateness and continuation as a method. Second, the article considers “Quarry” and Barnes's correspondence with publishers Faber and Faber to examine her attitude toward a seemingly finalized poem. Third, this article turns to Creatures in an Alphabet as an example of a supposedly completed project that was left unendorsed by Barnes and the tensions inherent in trying to read a late style into its material. Overall, I suggest that the revisionary nature of Barnes's poetry and its unfinishing state is a late style process, which represents a formal experiment, a creative experience informed by aging, and an example of the cultural investment critics have made in her late works.

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