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This article is taken from PN Review 25, Volume 8 Number 5, May - June 1982.

Lorine Niedecker's 'Lake Superior' Donald Davie

[This essay will appear, along with other pieces, in a volume entitled The Full Note: Lorine Niedecker, to be published by Interim Press, 3 Thornton Close, Budleigh Salterton, Devon EX9 6PJ.]

LORINE NIEDECKER's 'Lake Superior', as it appeared in her sumptuously printed North Central (Fulcrum Press, 1968), consists of twelve short or very short passages of verse. Accordingly it can be quoted in full:


In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

In blood the minerals
of the rock
*

Iron the common element of earth
in rocks and freighters

Sault Sainte Marie-big boats
coal-black and iron-ore-red
topped with what white castlework

The waters working together
    internationally
Gulls playing both sides
*

Radisson:
'a laborinth of pleasure'
this world of the Lake

Long hair, long gun

Fingernails pulled out
by Mohawks
*

(The long
canoes)

'Birch Bark
   and white Seder
     for the ribs'
*

Through all this granite land
the sign of the cross
*

Beauty: impurities in the rock
And at the blue ice superior spot
priest-robed Marquette grazed
azoic rock, hornblende granite
basalt the common dark
in all the Earth

And his bones of such is coral
...


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