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New Collected Poems [Hardcover]

Michael Davidson , George Oppen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Mar 2002
One of America's most vigorous Modernists, George Oppen (1908-1984) was a key member of the Objectivist group that flourished in the 1930s. It also included William Carlos Williams, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi and Louis Zukofsky. 'I am a man of the Thirties', Oppen wrote, and the integrity of his poems is a response to experiences of Depression and the rise of Fascism, engagement with manual work and family life. At the end of his life he could declare, 'I have told...no narrative but ourselves'. New Collected Poems gathers all the poet's books published in his lifetime. It adds previously uncollected poems and a selection of unpublished work. This edition includes generous annotation and a full introduction to the poet's life and work. Peter Campion writes: 'Oppen endeavored to bring the everyday into startling relief, to return all we take for granted to its original strangeness and importance. Few poets can convey the utter shock of being able to talk and breathe and drive a car as convincingly as George Oppen can. And Oppen does so by employing a seemingly simple, spoken idiom. His order of speech works both to convey the palpable imprint of collective life, and to achieve a nearly scientific sense of formal clarity and concision. 'Readers now have a splendid opportunity to examine this dynamic achievement in full, for Michael Davidson has done a superb job of editing the New Collected Poems. In addition to reprinting Oppen's 1978 collection, Primitive, Davidson offers a generous selection of previously unpublished poems.'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (27 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811214885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811214889
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,516,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tricky 21 Nov 2008
I was recently at the Oppen conference in Edinburgh and Michael Davidson, who has done a fantastic job of editing this collection, gave a fascinating paper about 'class' issues in Oppen's poetry and poetics. He shone his beady torch straight at fascinating examples that really drew attention to the tensions paradoxes at the heart of this body of work.

George Oppen, one of the great poets associated with the Objectivist movement, writes with a spareness and stuttering rhythm that is made even more interesting by the big gap, or to use Rachel Blau Duplessis' term 'fold or crimp', in his career: Oppen did not write poetry for almost thirty years from the thirties till 1958. If you have never read his work then I suggest you take a punt on this book. To whet your voracious hungers: Artist.

' he breaks the silence
and yet he hesitates, half unwilling

something comes to his mind
it is something about something'

So aware of artists' self-absorption yet so self conscious itself, I can't get over how surprising, tense and intricate this poem, and the rest of Oppen's poetry, is.

This is a beautiful edition and comes with a CD of Oppen reading which is definitely not to be missed!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Edition 7 Mar 2010
Every time I return to this book I am once again delighted. Oppen's poems leap out of the large pages just as they ought to. The introduction is engaging and informative and the explanatory notes at the back of the book help to make sense of a few culturally specific references which might otherwise leave modern readers confused. A fantastic quality production, well worth the price, and a must-have for fans of modernist poetry.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Clarity of Compassion 27 Nov 2002
By Nathan Wirth - Published on Amazon.com
This volume constitutes the most complete collection of Oppen's work to date-- many poems of which have not been anthologized until now. The centerpiece of the collection is Oppen's wonderful book-length poem-- Of Being Numerous. This Pulitzer-prize-winning poem is concerned with the dilemma of seeing the world through the eyes of solitude versus seeing the world through the eyes of what it is to be of the numerous. Throughout the poem's forty sections the reader is introduced to the meaning of what it is to be "of being numerous," warned about the shipwreck of isolation, thrust into the madness of war with all of its atrocities, reminded of the limits of language, introduced to clarity, and finally called upon to realize the necessity for compassion. A heartily recommended read!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A voice in print and audio 1 Dec 2008
By Paul A. Baker - Published on Amazon.com
In this re-edited version of Oppen's 1975 Collected Poems, editor Michael Davidson adds 60 previously unpublished poems, most from the 1950s through the 1970s.

The previously unpublished poems come from Oppen's manuscripts and working papers. Davidson says that, although this edition may include a bit more of the unpolished material than Oppen would have liked, he justifies these inclusions by considering the way Oppen composed; his "tendency to embed poems in the midst of a kind of textual rubble."

So we benefit from Davidson's archaeological digs. He worked to respect the integrity of Oppen's compositional standards by including "poems that he worked on over a period of time, or which elucidate other published poems." Sixty pages of notes provide additional substance and texture to this edition.
In these readings recorded in San Francisco, New York, and London, one hears a voice that is disillusioned, perhaps tired, but committed to grappling with personal and collective experience through art. In fact, Davidson says his editorial decisions were inspired in part by Oppen's remark that poems are forged out of social and familial forces beyond the aesthetic: He was shaped by working as a manual laborer, raising a family, the Depression, the threat of Fascism, and Communist Party activism.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Objectivist Poems For Further Reading 23 Mar 2005
By R. DelParto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
George Oppen's New Collected Poems is an updated version of Oppens' 1979 Collected Poems. The Pulitzer Prize poet takes the reader through a journey of his life. The poems have a distinct trait, which are based on Oppen's treaded and somewhat nomadic life that he lived along with his wife, Mary. The Introduction of the book offers tidbits of an adventurous and well-travelled man as well as his controversial political leanings with communism and anti-fascism. Despite that fact, Oppen wrote each poem with a sense of time and place, and one may easily identify where he was geographically, New York, Mexico, or California and what he was writing about. In essence, he writes with the world in mind and its many intricacies.

The most distinctive aspect of his poems is his reference to the war experience. As a veteran of World War II, Oppen reflects on the lasting affect the theatre of war had on him as well as the fury of the Cold War during the 1950s. He displays this in poems that are included in The Materials collection. In addition, Oppen offers a storm of socially political poems which may be the capstone of New Collected Poems. Oppen's 40 section, 1969 prize winning book, Of Being Numerous, provides his voice of opposition to the war in Vietnam; the illustrious distinction for his work allowed wider audience to become exposed it. This collection also includes Oppen's last published book, Primitive and unpublished poems. The last portion of the book provides a run down and analysis of each collection.

New Collected Poems offers much to be discussed. However, for every reader that obtains a copy, there will always be a different perspectives to Oppen's work even if you aren't a poetic theorist. Michael Davidson states: "They are often abstract, as mysterious as koans, a sea-surge of contradictory forces: assertions and their negations, declarations couched in double negatives, questions without answers, straightforward observations placed next to gnomic statements whose beauty lingers forever because they are never fully understood" (preface, x). If that may be a handful, this collection of poems may nurture your mind toward other poems and poets.

Nevertheless, Oppen does a find job of meshing together history and literature in his poems, which was an added plus for this reader.
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