Niedecker poetry mural in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin

Lorine Niedecker’s Writing

Sample poems included here are excerpted from “Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works” edited by Jenny Penberthy, published by the University of California Press, 2002. Poems reprinted by permission by 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.

        when the leaves
from their stems
        that lie thick
                on the walk
in the light
        of the full note
                the moon
        to leaves
                when they leave
the little
        thin things

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
taxes taxed
I shall own a book
of old Chinese poems
and binoculars
to probe the river

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


A robin stood by my porch
    and side-eyed
        raised up
            a worm

Get a load
    of April's
frog rattle—
    lowland freight cars
        in the night


We must pull
the curtains—
we haven't any

Poet’s work

    advised me:
        Learn a trade
I learned
    to sit at desk
        and condense
No layoff
    from this

Now in one year
      a book published
            and plumbing—
took a lifetime
      to weep
            a deep

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

(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—
      first frog
            or board
out on the cold
to wild green
      arts and letters
      my lettuce
            One boat
      pointed toward
            my shore
thru birdstart
of the soft
      and serious—

Far reach
      of sand
            A man
bends to inspect
      a shell
part coral
      and mud

I walked
New Year's Day
beside the trees
my father now gone planted
evenly following
the road

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


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


Lorine Niedecker published five books of poetry during her lifetime (1903-1970). Since her death, several collections of her writing have been published or reprinted. 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 you. We recommend Jenny Penberthy’s Collected Works as the best single volume for the serious reader of Niedecker’s work, as it offers a definitive, meticulously edited collection of Niedecker’s poetry and surviving prose. We recommend The Granite Pail as the best ‘selected’ volume of Niedecker’s poetry.


  • 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
  • New Goose. Edited by Jenny Penberthy, Berkeley: Listening Chamber, 2002. | Library
  • Collected Works. Edited by Jenny Penberthy, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. | Library
  • Homemade Poems. Edited by John Harkey. New York: Center for the Humanities, Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2012. |  Library
  • Lake SuperiorEdited by Wave Books. Seattle: Wave Books, 2013. | Library


  • Faranda, Lisa PaterBetween Your House and Mine: The Letters of Lorine Niedecker to Cid Corman, 1960 to 1970, Duke University press, 1986. Library.
  • Penberthy, Jenny. Niedecker and the Correspondence with Zukofsky, 1931-1970, Cambridge University Press, 1993. Library.

Literary Executor

Niedecker’s friend and publisher Cid Corman assumed the responsibility of acting as Niedecker’s literary executor after her death in 1970. Following Corman’s death in 2004, Bob Arnold became Corman’s (and thus Niedecker’s) literary executor. Arnold and his wife Susan have published books under the Longhouse imprint from their home in rural Vermont for over 50 years.

For all literary permissions, requests and information, please contact 
Bob Arnold
Literary Executor for The Estate of Lorine Niedecker
PO Box 2454
West Brattleboro, Vermont 05303
or email: