April 3 :: Lorine Niedecker’s “Poet’s Work”

As anybody who knows me knows: I am a cheerleader for the Midwest.   While I believe that regional and civic pride can dangerously turn into nationalist tendencies, I am guilty of contradicting myself and give the MW a big whoop-whoop when necessary. For that reason, I am often keeping my eyes open for Midwestern-born and based poets.  Today’s poet, Lorine Niedecker, was born and raised and lived and died in Wisconsin.  My friend Nissa Lee is a big fan of Lorine Niedecker, though I am not sure geography has anything to do with it.  I think for Nissa, Niedecker’s Objectivist tendencies influence her work.  If you know Nissa’s work, I think you can see it, though I am not trying to reduced it down to such simplistic terms.

Niedecker wrote, in a letter to a friend: “Objects. Objects. Why are people, artists above all, so terrifically afraid of themselves?”  What an important question.  I have know so many poets who would rather be disemboweled by Leda’s swan for all of eternity than to ever admit that they have a personal biography.   I am not going to go on a rant about that.  It’s their choice.  But it’s something I notice and something that I think informs Niedecker’s work.  For her Objectivist leanings (and her personal relationships with Objectivist heavy-hitters, including Louis Zukofsky, who fathered a baby she aborted — at his behest), Niedecker maintains a pretty demotic idiom, which is what I love.  Speaking of being reductive, I tend to think that many Midwestern poets do this, and that I endeavor to be a part of that tradition (Wright, Masters, Knight, Sandburg, Van Duyn, to name a few).

Building on the previous two posts, I would like to share “Poet’s Work”:

Poet’s Work 

Grandfather
advised me:
Learn a trade

I learned
to sit at desk
and condense

No layoffs
from this
condensery

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