Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lorine Niedecker: Three poems from Blackhawk Island, Wisconsin

The cottage where Lorine Niedecker and Al Millen 
lived on Blackhawk Island, WI. 

Three poems by Lorine Niedecker


What bird would light
in a moving tree
the tree I carry
for privacy?

Down in the grass
the question's inept;
sora's eyes . . .
stillness steps.


Mr. Van Ess bought 14 washcloths?
Fourteen washrags, Ed Van Ess?
Must be going to give em
to the church, I guess.

He drinks, you know. The day we moved
he came into the kitchen stewed,
mixed things up for my sister Grace--
put the spices in the wrong place.


Tell em to take my bare walls down
my cement abutments
their parties thereof
and clause of claws

Leave me the land
Scratch out: the land

May prose and property both die out
and leave me peace

There is now a biography of the poet, Lorine Niedecker: A Poet’s Life by Margot Peters. (The University of Wisconsin Press, 2011): " ... Most often she is compared to Emily Dickinson, chiefly for their isolated lives and absolute devotion to their craft. Lorine, however, was not really isolated, though she lived virtually all her life alone on Blackhawk Island, on the Rock River, three miles from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. She married twice, went to New York to meet the poet Louis Zukofsky, was forced to work for her living as a proofreader and hospital cleaning woman. Her terse but deeply felt and musical poetry moves me deeply. I also love her as a person — her intelligence, courage, wit, and vulnerability make hers a fascinating story.” Margot Peters' website is here.

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