Monday, February 6, 2012

Sources we tide from

Like the others I attached no particular value to the idea of a group, much less a school.

. . .

We were all very much concerned with poetic form, and form not merely as texture, but as the shape that makes a poem possible to grasp.  (Would we all have thought that a satisfactory way to put it?)  'Objectivist' meant, not an objective viewpoint, but to objectify the poem, to make the poem an object.  Meant form.  Louis' essay discussed sincerity on the one hand and objectification on the other.  And sincerity - very brilliantly, it seems to me - as the epic quality.

Tradition?  I don't remember discussing it.  But who would write poetry if a poem had never been written?  Beyond that, the members of this group had a very strong sense of their own histories.  Rezi's awareness of the Jewish past, Williams' sense of America and its roots, Louis' relation to Bach and other 'sources we tide from,' -----  I am sort of short-winded historically, but not blind.  I remember my father and grandfather: I think of my daughter.  I'm aware that the subways are old (did you notice) and that the Queen Mary is fairly new.  The ground seems very old to me.  I write about nothing else.  But I thought of Eliot as a sort of enemy at the time; I don't remember discussing 'tradition.'  If we had, Williams would have spoken as in The American Grain, Louis might have used the word in a more classic sense, Rezi might have thought we were all talking about the day before yesterday.

And I would have been.  I was twenty-four.

-- George Oppen, letter to Mary Ellen Solt about the Objectivists, February 15, 1961


N.B. Cf. this piece, re W.C.W. and "theories, schools, and doctrines..."

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