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.
Learn a trade
I learned to sit
at a desk
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:
- "When Ecstasy is Inconvenient"
- "Paean to Place"
- "Wintergreen Ridge" (which for the life of me I cannot find online, but it's in her Collected Works)
- "[What horror to awake at night]"
Poets.org 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.