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
Don't fall in love
with this face—
it no longer exists
we cannot fish
is the head
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.
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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.