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This article is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

Seeing the World: the Poetry of George Oppen Jeremy Hooker


The sense of awe, I suppose, is all I manage to talk about. I had written that 'virtue of the mind is that emotion which causes to see,' and I think that perhaps that is the best statement of it.
George Oppen

We awake in the same moment to ourselves and to things.
Jacques Maritain


'Some of us are writing to say things simply so that they will affect us as new again.' Louis Zukofsky's comment to Harriet Monroe, at the time of the 'objectivist' number of Poetry, in 1931, is relevant to George Oppen's first book, Discrete Series. Saying things simply, however, is unlikely to be what any reader finds at a first reading of Discrete Series, or, for that matter, of much of George Oppen's poetry. But, as with any poet who says things 'so that they will affect us as new again' our initial difficulty in understanding will be due largely to what we bring to the poems - expectations formed by poetic conventions, and their way of structuring the world, from which the poet has freed himself, and from which the poems can free us. Understanding George Oppen means coming alive to his way of seeing.

George Oppen has said in an interview of Discrete Series: 'What I felt I was doing was beginning from imagism as a position of honesty. The first question at that time in poetry was simply the question ...


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