George Oppen--American

 

     George Oppen

George Oppen
(1908-1984)

 

A member of the Objectivist Group of poets, Oppen was born in New Rochelle, New York in 1908.  Discrete Series, his first book of poems was published in 1932 and had a preface written by Ezra Pound.  He served in World War II and was badly injured.  He and his wife joined the American Communist party and became targets of the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy era. They eventually left the country in 1950 and moved to Mexico where Oppen became a furniture maker.  They returned to the States in 1958 and Oppen began to write again.  The Materials, his second book of poetry was published in 1962.  This was followed by This in Which (1965), and Of Being Numerous (1968) for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  He died in 1984.


Survival: Infantry

And the world changed.

There had been trees and people,

Sidewalks and roads

There were fish in the sea.

 

Where did all the rocks come from?

And the smell of explosives

Iron standing in mud

We crawled everywhere on the ground without seeing

the earth again

We were ashamed of our half life and our misery: we

saw that everything had died.

 

And the letters came.  People who addressed us thru our

lives

They left us grasping.  And in tears

In the same mud in the terrible ground.