Friday, March 11, 2011

Poetry Countdown: Women's History Month--#8

I need to preface this edition of my Women's History Month Countdown with this--I am not a poetry scholar. On top of that, I'm not very good at enjoying British poets. So on this countdown, you're not going to find Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Christina Rosetti or any of the scores of European (particularly those who are English) female poets who may deserve to be on it. Sorry.

My first two poets on this countdown, Lucille Clifton and Marianne Moore, are certainly deserving. But they also are indicators or things to come. The remaining 8 poets on my list are going to be mainly American, and mainly poets of the 20th century.

That being said, I have done a lot of research for this series, and I've read a lot of poems by poets that I wouldn't normally have read. I've enjoyed it, too. So without further adieu, on to number 8...

Lorine Niedecker's poetry can be described as minimalist, I suppose. Kenneth Koch called it "whittled clean," according to Niedecker's Poetry Foundation's bio page. Without a doubt, though, it is both unique and glorious.

Poet's Work

     advised me:
         Learn a trade

I learned to sit
     at a desk
          and condense

No layoff
     from this

Her poems are so small and yet each one of them achieves perfection in its own way. I would imagine that crafting poems like these would have been labor intensive--choosing just the right words and just the right spacing. The hard work pays off, for sure.

Popcorn can cover
screwed to a wall
     so the cold
can't mouse in

See what I mean? Perfection. These four lines are among my favorite in all of poetry, I think. I love that indentation. And the use of "mouse" as a verb. I asked my class once, kind of on a whim, why they thought there was no period at the end of "popcorn can cover." I had no idea what the answer is, I just wanted to hear what they would say. A student responded: "Maybe the story isn't over yet." Maybe.

I think, without a doubt, that she deserves this spot in my countdown. I hope you'll enjoy reading her poems as much as I do.

Another Niedecker "must-read" is "In the great snowfall before the bomb," which has an ending that ranks up there with the greatest I've read. In fact, her poems' endings are one of my favorite things about them.

Please also enjoy these Niedecker greatest hits: also has a really good article called "Who Was Lorine Niedecker?" Like many brilliant genius poets, she was a very interesting person. I think you'll agree.

Be sure to check out the number 10 and number 9 entries in the countdown. AND head over to Liz in Ink for this week's Poetry Friday Roundup.


  1. She sounds fascinating...I'm still ruminating over your favorite lines - especially that indentation. Poets work in mysterious ways...

  2. These poems are new to me, so thank you! And I do love that "Maybe the story isn't over yet."