Folk Poetry and the American Avant-Garde: Placing Lorine Niedecker
What is the effect of placing speech in a poem? What is the effect of placing a poem in a collection of poems by other poets? These ordinary cultural acts of displacement are taken for granted by most writers and readers, but for the Objectivist poet Lorine Niedecker they represented highly conscious acts alien to her everyday world. Although her fellow Objectivists were marginalized by the literary world for much of their careers, they mostly lived and worked within the metropolitan cultures where their avant-garde poetry was read. She spent almost all her life in rural Wisconsin in relative poverty, keeping her writing life quite separate from her various working-class jobs and the local community. By reading her relations with the poetic avant-garde in terms of these acts of displacement, it is possible to appreciate the complexity of a poetic style that can appear to dissolve meaning into a limpid clarity that leaves nothing to interpret, and to recognize that the poetic avant-garde makes rarely questioned assumptions about the universal transmissibility of poetry.
Department of English, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, England.
1 Peter Middleton is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, England.