Monday, November 23, 2009

Lorine Niedecker

"'The Brontes had their moors, I have my marshes,' Lorine Niedecker wrote of the watery, flood-prone Black Hawk Island near the town of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, where she lived most of her life.  Although few people endured for long the seasonal hardships of life on Black Hawk Island, Niedecker's attachments to teh place ran deep. Her life by the water could not have been further removed from the avant-garde poetry scene where she also made herself a home." - Jenny Penberthy from the her introduction to Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works.  You can read Penberthy's complete introduction here.

Lorine Niedecker was the only woman associated with the Objectivist poets, briefly, a lover of Louis Zukofsky, and she shared Thoreau's taste in real estate. Her poetry often takes folk images as its subject, though to call her a folk poet would have the academic secret police knocking at your door. Stylistically, she wrote in the condensed, direct language of the Objectivists, sharing a poetic ethos with urbanites like Zukofsky and George Oppen. She also borrowed from surrealists and eastern traditions. She wrote most of her poems from the 1940's until her death in 1970.

I'm teaching Niedecker (along with Gary Snyder - also very exciting) tomorrow to the students in my literature class, so I revisited her work today. That's what prompted this post. You can check out some of her work here at the SUNY Buffalo Electronic Poetry Center. However, they don't have a few of my favorite poems at EPC, so I'll reproduce them here. All are from "Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works" which was published by the University of California Press and edited by Jenny Penberthy. They originally appeared in either "New Goose" or the manuscripts for that book. Here goes:

A monster owl
out on the fence
flew away.What
is it the sign
of? The sign of
an owl.


O rock my baby on the tree tops
and blow me a little tin horn.
They've got us suckin the hound tit
and that's the way I was born.

O let me rise to the door-knob
and let me buy my way.
I know the owner of the store
and that's the way I was raised.


I walked
from Chicago to Big Bull Falls (Wausau),
two weeks,
little to eat.
Came night
I wrapped myself in a piece of bark
and slept beside a log.

I just found this great site, too. Check out Susan Ticky's Field Guide to the Birds of Lorine Niedecker's Collected works.

No comments: