Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lorine Niedecker

                                                                      Editor Susan T. Landry
Lorine Niedecker was an American poet, an avant-garde poet, a poet of nature, a poet of ordinary life, a poet who lived under the roof of the sky and beside a river. She had what people with limited imagination might call a modest life, and yet wrote imagistic, crystalline poems that convey a rich intellect and an ability to see, really see, what was around her.

I first discovered the work of Niedecker after I wrote and submitted a poem to the bi-weekly, short-poem group I belong to, called Brevitas. I was still living in New York City, but I think buried within me, down where the words live that come out when I have a need to conjure up poetry, I had a yearning. The desire to leave, to move somewhere quiet, close to water and the woods was beginning to insist. I can’t remember what I wrote that conveyed this, but one of my fellow poets in the group e-mailed me and said that the poem I sent around made him think of Lorine Niedecker. He said, you will like her work: she has an intimacy with nature that you are seeking.

Niedecker rarely titled her poems. They light on the page like dragonflies or sprawl inside the book like stalks of dried grass, tucked away for later - here are two of them.

My life is hung up
in the flood
    a wave-blurred

Don't fall in love
with this face—
     it no longer exists
                in water
                         we cannot fish


  stood there
      all body

  blown off

showed up

  is the head
         of spring

Birch, sumac
        the blast

Jenny Penberthy edited the definitive volume, Lorine Niedecker, Collected Works, published by the University of California Press, in 2002. (It’s the book I bought when I wanted more.) The poems I quote here are from a Web page, also edited by Jenny Penberthy, at http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/niedecker/poems.html. Bob Arnold, literary executor for Lorine Niedecker, was kind enough to give me permission to reprint these poems.

The photograph is mine, of the Maine woods.

For more Tuesday Poems check out the poets in the sidebar - up to 30 of us from all over: the US, the UK, NZ and Australia.

Susan T. Landry is this week’s editor of Tuesday Poem. She lives in Maine, is a medical editor by trade, and also enjoys fine-tuning work for friends, other creative writers and artists. She belongs to Brevitas, an invitation-only short poem e-mail exchange that meets in person only once a year, for a gala evening at the Bowery Poetry Project, in New York City; writes and posts an occasional poem on her blog Twisted Knickers, where she also natters about whatever she fancies, or doesn’t.


Jayne said...

Beautiful poem. I understand that feeling, the need to be nearer nature. Niedecker is one with it. :)

Sarah Jane Barnett said...

The lines, "Don't fall in love / with this face— / it no longer exists / in water / we cannot fish" are just amazing. She manages to talk about time and environmental degradation without being heavy handed. Are her poems quite short? Originally I thought that the two you posted were one poem, which made some interesting sense to me.

Emma said...

I also read them as one and loved the way they weave in together.

Thank you for posting these.

Penal-Colony said...

Excellent choice, Susan. Thanks for the introuction.

Helen Lowe said...

Another "new" poet for me, but I enjoyed the delicacy and brevity of the works. Thank you for introducing me to Lorine Niedecker via the Tuesday Poem Hub, Susan.

susan t. landry said...

i am pleased that TP readers are intrigued by Niedecker; i hope you explore her work further! thank you for stopping by, and thank you for commenting.