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Un(der)known Writers: George Oppen

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As a member of the Objectivist school, poet George Oppen sought to enact the materiality of language through simple phrasing and shorthand. His career includes a nearly 30 year lull, when he stopped writing poems and chose instead to join the Communist Party with his wife. After suffering a war injury and living in Mexico to avoid McCarthy-era scrutiny, he came back to the states after McCarthy’s death and finally began to produce more work.

“Part of the Forest” was originally published by Poetry Magazine in 1960.

Part of the Forest 

There are lovers who recall that
Moment of moonlight, lit
Instant—

But to be alone is to be lost
Altho the tree, the roots
Are there

It is an oak: the word
Terrifying, spoken to the oak—.

The young men therefore are determined to be
Men. Beer bottle and a closed door
Makes them men.

Or car.—Approach
A town to be negotiated
By the big machine

Slow, for a young
Woman, kids
In hand. She is

A family. Isn’t tenderness, God knows,
This long boned girl—it is a kind of war,
A tower

In the suburb.

Then the road again. The car’s
Companion.

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