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America's Greatest Unknown Poet: Lorine Niedecker Reminiscences, Photographs, Letters and Her Most Memorable Poems [Paperback]

John Lehman

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The relationship between writing and living is explored in this collection of letters, poems, photographs, and reminiscences from people who knew Lorine Niedecker personally. Niedecker's acclaimed poems are distinguished by a fierce style that earned her work comparison to that of Emily Dickinson and William Carlos Williams. Revelations about her roles as the daughter of a Wisconsin carp fisherman and as a hospital cleaning woman offer insight into how Niedecker became a quintessential poet of place. Critical questions are discussed about the creative process reflected in Niedecker's writings, including What can we achieve through writing? How are we affected by where we live? and Who inspires us?

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gentle Introduction To A Fine Poet 12 Sep 2007
By M. Hori - Published on Amazon.com
When I first moved to Milwaukee in 1980, Lorine Niedecker and her work was a sort of glorious secret kept between the very few "in the know." This select group consisted of Karl Gartung of Woodland Pattern Book Center, the critic Karl Young, Morgan Gibson (Japan), Cid Corman (Japan), Ian Hamilton Finlay (U.k.), Basil Bunting (U.K.), and a very few others who had known Lorine and her writing. One fine day in early spring Karl Gartung took me up to see the famous cabin on Blackhawk Lake, the misspelled tombstone of gray granite. We visited Gail Roub in Fort Atkinson, a kind man, and heard him tell of rescuing Lorine's pictures and manuscripts left behind in the abandoned cabin at flood time after her death. It all came home to me that here was a woman passionately convinced of the importance of poetry in a world that largely passed her by. Living, in the main, by herself, surrounded by lush nature--frog croaks and mosquito bites and the lazy gulp of flies by the lake fish--she daily sat at a small table and worked hard to find the right word for the right place at the right time. No, she does not have the verbal gifts and dazzlingly unexpected insights into science and religion and fear and love and loss that Emily Dickinson had. Lorine Niedecker's gifts were of a far different, homelier kind. Where Emily Dickinson blazes, Lorine Niedecker glows; where Emily Dickson takes the breath, Lorine Niedecker affirms the bedrock certainty--the aptness--of the form she chooses to express her thought. In 1980 only a few of Lorine's publications were available--I picked up a rare Lorine Niedecker special issue of Truck Magazine from the 1970's and felt lucky to have it. Now, since the publication of Jenny Penberthy's edition of Niedecker's complete works, and the editions of letters--especially those to Louis Zukofsky, an academic industry has begun. Among the spate of ensuing theses, monographs, anthologies, translations and miscellaneous publications, John Lehman's America's greatest Unknown Poet is one of the finest introductions to the poetry and the life of Lorine Niedecker that I know. As well as providing context for the work, Lehman gently leads the reader past the central tragedy of Lorine's life: her relationship with the great second generation modernist poet Louis Zukofsky, who comes across in all accounts as a bit of a heavy. Lehman also provides a good anthology of Niedecker's best work, as well as a cogent discussion of her theory of art: her practice of condensing language in poetry. Lehman gives any potential student of Lorine's poetry the kinds of tools that they would need to consider both the strengths and weaknesses of the work, and to write knowledgeably about it. In short, Lehman side-steps the layers of interpretation of various critical stances that have begun to accumulate about the image of this modest worker with words and opts to keep the discussion simple--free of the encrustations of jargon that are now hardening, loop on loop and band on band, around the sincere writing of a rather remarkable person who made her living by cooking and scrubbing floors in a small town in central Wisconsin, but who still managed to create some of the most compelling poetry of 20th century America. Highly recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lorine Niedecker: an Emily Dickenson for the 21st Century 22 Jun 2004
By V. Soto - Published on Amazon.com
John Lehman's book illuminates Lorine for you: her life, her friends, her loves, her work... I'd never heard of Lorine Niedecker. I knew Pound, Joyce, Eliot, Ginsberg, Woolf, Plath, Williams, etc. But no Niedecker.
Niedecker: five line poems that shine. Not a word wasted. Less is more. The poems: funny, sad, filled with birds, trees, Thomas Jefferson, and water near by. She can illuminate life with five lines. Life's bits of knowledge learned from the Great Depression or as a cleaning woman in a hospital or historical research...
Some family and friends didn't even know she wrote. Now we all know. So thanks to John Lehman for shouting in the desert about America's Greatest Unknown Poet: Lorine Niedecker. Read Niedecker: Collected Works.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Woman Writer 7 Oct 2003
By Cindy Imhoff - Published on Amazon.com
Her work is great and her life interesting. This is a terrific book for anyone interested in writing and it also shows how all of us need to come to terms with our lives. Poems, letters, interviews, photographs. Good for book groups (or schools) with a built-in discussion guide. It's very affordable too.
5.0 out of 5 stars Yesterday, I reread this artful book... 11 July 2011
By Ellen G. Olinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Yesterday afternoon, I reread this artful book about Lorine Niedecker cover-to-cover. Then I read the helpful Customer Reviews already posted here and wish to add my voice. John Lehman is a good teacher and editor.

I am somewhat familiar with the part of Wisconsin where Lorine Niedecker lived for years and can picture the nature that both inspired and challenged her daily life.

Her life was hard. And she created art from it.
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