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Showing posts from June, 2008

Charles Reznikoff

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The Poems of Charles Reznikoff, 1918 – 1975. Edited by Seamus Cooney, Black Sparrow Books, 444 pp., $21.95

Poetic movements come and go and leave in their wake a few historical traces and a few poets whose practice may have been partially shaped by their allegiance. Few have left as interesting a residue as the set of gestures within twentieth century modernism that have been labelled ‘objectivist’. Whereas Modernism proper was Euro-centric, high culture and Right-leaning, the objectivists were urban, American-oriented, and with the exception of Lorine Niedecker in rural Wisconsin, Jewish New Yorkers. The politics are important because they are very much bound up with the aesthetics. George Oppen was a labour organiser and a Communist and gave up poetry for twenty years in favour of social activism. These poets lived their lives on the margins, outside both of academia and the kind of economically successful life which might have rewarded them socially. Charles Reznikoff had a succe…