Monday, February 6, 2012

Perloff on Niedecker

A great piece in the Times Literary Supplement by the great Marjorie Perloff on the poet Lorine Niedecker (1903-70).

Everyone interested in poetry should read Niedecker's The Granite Pail: The Selected Poems (I have an old second-hand edition).

In her poem Paean to Place ('I am the solitary plover') Niedecker quotes some lines from Robert Duncan's wonderful essay 'Towards an Open Universe':

We live by the urgent wave
of the verse

In fact, Duncan actually wrote:

In the very beginnings of life, in the source of our cadences, with the first pulse of the blood in the egg then, the changes of night and day must have been there. So that in the configuration of the living, hidden in the exchanging orders of the chromosome sequences from which we have our nature, the first nature, child of deep waters and of night and day, sleeping and waking, remains.

We are, all the many expressions of living matter, grandchildren of Gaia, Earth and Uranus, the Heavens. Late born, for the moon and ocean came before. The sea was our first mother and sun our father, so our sciences picture the chemistry of the living as beginning in the alembic of the primal sea quickened by rays of the sun and even, beyond, by radiations of the cosmos at large.

Tide-flow under the sun and moon of the sea, systole and diastole of the heart, these rhythms lie deep in our experience and when we let them take over our speech there is a monotonous rapture of persistent regular stresses and waves of lines breaking rhyme after rhyme. There have been poets for whom this rise and fall, the mothering swell and ebb, was all. Amoebic intelligences, dwelling in the memorial of tidal voice, they arouse in our awake minds a spell, so that we let our awareness go in the urgent wave of the verse.

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