September 5, 2012

PotM: In the great snowfall before the bomb

In the great snowfall before the bomb

by Lorine Niedecker

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.

I heard their rehashed radio barbs—
more barbarous among hirelings
as higher-ups grow more corrupt.
But what vitality! The women hold jobs—
clean house, cook, raise children,
bowl and go to church.

What would they say if they knew
I sit for two months on six lines
of poetry?

[This is the poem that made me a Lorine Niedecker fan. She was an Objectivist poet (NOT the Ayn Rand bullshit, but a Reddish school of Modernist poetry which fell into obscurity during the McCarthy era) who lived and worked in rural Wisconsin. 

An article by Elizabeth Willis is a good introduction to her, but there's a lot more on the Internet about her life and her poetry. (Some of the articles mention that she worked for Hoard's Dairyman, which she refers to in this poem, but few of those commenting seem to understand the central role this weekly publication played for North American dairy farmers throughout the 20th century.)

It's a short poem, but a rich one, touching on the Bomb, the lives of working people--including the work itself, women's role in society and the weird distance the lone artist must feel in larger communities.]

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