Commentaries - February 2008

Don't know how to say (PoemTalk #3)

George Oppen, "Ballad"


Joined this time by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, the PoemTalkers wasted no time grappling with George Oppen's grappling with the real. The rock of the island he's visiting - its locatedness to be cherished - "outlived the classicists." Is this anti-academic? Yes, we agreed. On an island in Maine, he meets a lobsterman and his wife and finds them super-articulate and at the same time admirably, wonderfully halting in their speech (like Oppen himself here). Oppen: "Difficult to know what one means." The lobsterman's wife: "I don't know how to say." We are all in this real together. Jessica was just back from Vegas, Linh from Iceland, Rachel from teaching a class on the other side of town. Which instruments - archaic and etymologically historical or local, broken-toothed and ready-at-hand - are the tools that will help us understand where exactly we are? "Geo-positioning" seemed to be the word of the day.

O, words' sleepy family habits — awake!

Thinking about Stein (again) — I mean, probably: how to teach Stein. Those in my life who don't read Stein — can't "get" her — invariably ask, when I push, if there's an easy way in. There isn't, probably, but I do store up a bunch of quickie critical comments that seem (at least me) alluring as touchstone first approaches. I'll feature these occasionally in this blog. Here are two for today: