Monday, March 19, 2012

A little introduction to this poem: Lorine Niedecker was a poet, Wisconsin born and raised and died, who was loosely affiliated with the second wave of modernists, a small group of "Objectivist" poets, that included Charles Reznikoff, Louis Zukofsky, and George Oppen. They were largely influenced by the visual art esque poetry of William Carlos Williams (think The Red Wheel Barrow), the idea that there is "no ideas but in things." Niedecker wrote in the vein but was not published much until the 60's, when all of a sudden she became a little more popular until her death in 1971.

During the 50's she wrote a series of poems called For Paul, for the new born son of Louis Zukofsky, who she had a long running correspondence with. However during the 30's Zukofsky and Niedecker had a love that resulted in an abortion. During the 40's, when Paul was born, they continued to correspond and these For Paul poems were based on what Zukofsky said about his son's growth. Niedecker never had any children herself. The poems were a mix personal information alongside larger historical events, though they were never published due to Zukofsky's discomfort with them. Here is one these poems:

Understand me, dead is nothing
whereas here we want each other,
silence, time to be alone
and Paul's growing up—
baseball, jabber, running off to neighbors
and back into the Iliad—"do you really believe
there were gods, all that hooey?"
And his violin—improvising
made a Vivaldi sequence his,
better than I could have done with poetry
at twice his age...
so write your father, L. before P.

A start in life for Paul.
The efforts of a life
hold together as Einstein's
and lead to expectations of form.

To know, to love ... if we know nothing,
Baruch the blessed said, would we exist?

For Paul then at six and a half
a half scholarship—
turn the radio dead—
tho your teacher's gone back to Italy
stumped by American capital.

In my mind, the child said,
are rondeau-gavottes 1 to 11,
here is number 12.