New Collected Poems: George Oppen


George Oppen

Collecting all of George Oppen’s work, both published and unpublished, in one volume, Michael Davidson’s edited volume begins with an introduction to the poet’s work and full notes.

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One of America’s most vigorous Modernists, George Oppen (1908-1984) was a key member of the Objectivist group that flourished in the 1930s. It also included William Carlos Williams, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi and Louis Zukofsky. ‘I am a man of the Thirties’, Oppen wrote, and the integrity of his poems is a response to experiences of Depression and the rise of Fascism, engagement with manual work and family life. At the end of his life he could declare, ‘I have told…no narrative but ourselves’. New Collected Poems gathers all the poet’s books published in his lifetime. It adds previously uncollected poems and a selection of unpublished work. This edition includes generous annotation and a full introduction to the poet’s life and work. Peter Campion writes: ‘Oppen endeavored to bring the everyday into startling relief, to return all we take for granted to its original strangeness and importance. Few poets can convey the utter shock of being able to talk and breathe and drive a car as convincingly as George Oppen can. And Oppen does so by employing a seemingly simple, spoken idiom. His order of speech works both to convey the palpable imprint of collective life, and to achieve a nearly scientific sense of formal clarity and concision. ‘Readers now have a splendid opportunity to examine this dynamic achievement in full, for Michael Davidson has done a superb job of editing the New Collected Poems. In addition to reprinting Oppen’s 1978 collection, Primitive, Davidson offers a generous selection of previously unpublished poems.’

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