Selections from Niedecker’s Poetry
Poems included here are from Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works, edited by Jenny Penberthy, published by the University of California Press, 2002 and reprinted by permission of the University of California Press.
Remember my little granite pail? The handle of it was blue. Think what's got away in my life— Was enough to carry me thru.
Black Hawk held: In reason land cannot be sold, only things to be carried away, and I am old. Young Lincoln's general moved, pawpaw in bloom, and to this day, Black Hawk, reason has small room.
There's a better shine on the pendulum than is on my hair and many times .. .. I've seen it there.
Asa Gray wrote Increase Lapham: pay particular attention to my pets, the grasses.
In moonlight lies the river passing— it's not quiet and it's not laughing. I'm not young and I'm not free but I've a house of my own by a willow tree.
In the great snowfall before the bomb colored yule tree lights windows, the only glow for contemplation along this road I worked the print shop right down among em the folk from whom all poetry flows and dreadfully much else. I was Blondie I carried my bundles of hog feeder price lists down by Larry the Lug, I'd never get anywhere because I'd never had suction, pull, you know, favor, drag, well-oiled protection.
What horror to awake at night and in the dimness see the light. Time is white mosquitoes bite I've spent my life on nothing. The thought that stings. How are you, Nothing, sitting around with Something's wife. Buzz and burn is all I learn I've spent my life on nothing. I've pillowed and padded, pale and puffing lifting household stuffing— carpets, dishes benches, fishes I've spent my life in nothing.
Paul when the leaves fall from their stems that lie thick on the walk in the light of the full note the moon playing to leaves when they leave the little thin things Paul
The death of my poor father leaves debts and two small houses. To settle this estate a thousand fees arise— I enrich the law. Before my own death is certified, recorded, final judgement judged taxes taxed I shall own a book of old Chinese poems and binoculars to probe the river trees.
Hear where her snow-grave is the You ah you of mourning doves
My friend tree I sawed you down but I must attend an older friend the sun
Easter A robin stood by my porch and side-eyed raised up a worm
Get a load of April's fabulous frog rattle— lowland freight cars in the night
Poet's work Grandfather advised me: Learn a trade I learned to sit at desk and condense No layoff from this condensery
Now in one year a book published and plumbing— took a lifetime to weep a deep trickle
I knew a clean man but he was not for me. Now I sew green aprons over covered seats. He wades the muddy water fishing, fall in, dries his last pay-check in the sun, smooths it out in Leaves Of Grass. He's the one for me.
Popcorn-can cover screwed to the wall over a hole so the cold can't mouse in
Your erudition the elegant flower of which my blue chicory at scrub end of campus ditch illuminates
(Excerpt from "Lake Superior") I'm sorry to have missed Sand Lake My dear one tells me we did not We watched a gopher there
My Life by Water My life by water— Hear spring's first frog or board out on the cold ground giving Muskrats gnawing doors to wild green arts and letters Rabbits raided my lettuce One boat two— pointed toward my shore thru birdstart wingdrip weed-drift of the soft and serious— Water
Far reach of sand A man bends to inspect a shell Himself part coral and mud clam
Fall We must pull the curtains— we haven't any leaves
I walked New Year's Day beside the trees my father now gone planted evenly following the road Each spoke
Katherine Ann A poor poet divining Gail The baby looked toward me and I was born— to sound, light lift, life beyond my life She wiggles her toe I grow I go to school to her and she to me and to Bonnie
Wilderness You are the man You are my other country and I find it hard going You are the prickly pear You are the sudden violent storm the torrent to raise the river to float the wounded doe
For permission to reproduce or use Lorine Niedecker’s work please contact her literary executor:
Books by Lorine Niedecker:
Lorine Niedecker published five books of poetry during her lifetime, and several more collections have appeared since her death in 1970. Wherever books are in print, we’ve tried to include links to the publisher, and have included links to the WorldCat library record where possible, so you can find these books in a library near year. We strongly recommend Jenny Penberthy’s Collected Works for the serious reader of Niedecker’s work, as it offers a definitive, meticulously edited collection of nearly everything Niedecker wrote or published in her lifetime. We recommend The Granite Pail is the best ‘selected’ Niedecker volume available.
New Goose. Prairie City, Ill.: Press of James A. Decker, 1946. | Library
My Friend Tree. Edinburgh: Wild Hawthorne Press, 1961. | Library
North Central. London: Fulcrum Press, 1968. | Library
T & G: Collected Poems 1936-1966. Penland, N.C.: Jargon Society, 1969. | Library
My Life By Water: Collected Poems 1936-1968. London: Fulcrum Press, 1970. | Library
Blue Chicory. Edited by Cid Corman, New Rochelle, N.Y.: The Elizabeth Press, 1976. | Library
From This Condensery: The Complete Writings of Lorine Niedecker. Edited by Robert J. Bertholf, Jargon Society/Inland Book Company, 1985. | Library
The Granite Pail: Selected Poems of Lorine Niedecker. Edited by Cid Corman, North Point Press, 1985. | Library
Harpsichord & Salt Fish. Edited by Jenny Penberthy, Durham, England: Pig Press, 1991. | Library
Between Your House and Mine: Letters of Lorine Niedecker to Cid Corman, 1960-1970. Edited by Lisa Pater Faranda. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1986. | Library
Niedecker and the Correspondence with Zukofsky 1931-1970. Edited by Jenny Penberthy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. | Library
Video Reading of Paean to Place
Read by Sarah Day
Directed by Brent Notbohm
Produced by Nicholas Owen Langholff, Brent Notbohm, Robert Saba
Cinematography by Andreas Wagner
Film Editing by Brent Notbohm
Lorine Reads Her Poetry
This recording is the only known recording of Lorine reading her poems. It was recorded by Cid Corman during a visit to Lorine’s home in Wisconsin in November 1970, one month before her death. At the end, the audio cassette tape runs out.
Three poems by Lorine Niedecker
Ann Engelman, Narrator
Jeff Wagner, Pianist