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Author Biography: George Oppen was born in Rochester, New York. His first book of poems, Discrete Series, was published in 1934 by The Objectivist Press, after which he stopped writing poetry for nearly twenty-five years in favor of political activism, even living as an exile in Mexico in the 1950s, during the McCarthy era. New Directions subsequently published The Materials (1962), This in Which (1965), Of Being Numerous (1968), and Collected Poems (1975), which also included Seascape: Needle's Eye (1972) and Myth of the Blaze (1975). His last book, Primitive, was brought out by Black Sparrow Press in 1978. All are included here.
The knowledge not of sorrow, you were
saying, but of boredom
Is—aside from reading speaking
Of what, Maude Blessingbourne it was,
wished to know when, having risen,
"approached the window as if to see
what really was going on";
And saw rain falling, in the distance
The road clear from her past the window-glass—
Of the world, weather-swept, with which
one shares the century.
White. From the
Under arm of T
The red globe.
From the quiet
Stone floor ...
Of Frigidaire, of
Plane of lunch, of wives
(As soda-jerking from
the private act
The evening, water in a glass
Thru which our car runs on a higher road.
Over what has the air frozen?
Nothing can equal in polish and obscured
origin that dark instrument
Ease; the hand on the sword-hilt
Her ankles are watches
(Her arm-pits are causeways for water)
When she steps
She walks on a sphere
Walks on the carpet, dressing.
Brushing her hair
Her movement accustomed, abstracted,
Declares this morning a woman's
"My hair, scalp.—"
The three wide
Funnels raked aft, and the masts slanted
Deck-hand slung in a bosun's chair
Works on this 20th century chic and
Not evident at "The Sailor's Rest."
Excerpted from New Collected Poems by George Oppen. Copyright © 2002 by Linda Oppen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted December 14, 2008
Throughout the New Collected Poems, Oppen displays a primal element of intensity in the making of a poem, in the connection of emotionally fused language with the material of images and words, and the care given to their syntactical arrangement which, when it is evoked, suggests what D.H. Lawrence understood as an "ungraspable sheer present...life surging into utterance." The wording, imagery and structuring of his poems enforces a de-conventionalizing of perceptions. His motive throughout his work, the way he recombines subjects and objects to permeate a deeper, unpredictable and previously unapparent clarity, becomes vivid. <BR/><BR/>Read the complete essay on George Oppen, "Facets of a Limited and Limiting Clarity" at dorenrobbins.com.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.