Bibliography

Beyers, Chris. A History of Free Verse. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2001. Hartman, Charles o. Free Verse: An Essay on Prosody. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980.

Holder, Alan. Rethinking Meter: A New Approach to the Verse Line. Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell University Press, 1995. Olson, Charles. "Projective Verse." In The New American Poetry 1945-1960, edited by Donald M. Allen. New York: Grove Press, 1960. Williams, William Carlos. "Free Verse." In Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, edited by Alex Preminger, Frank J. Warnke, and O. B. Hardison. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974.

Thomas Lisk

"PSALM" GEORGE OPPEN (1965) The poem "Psalm" is from George oppen's third book, This in Which. (1965) The influence of Walt Whitman and an American free verse tradition is evident (see prosody and free verse), but the strict sense of image and line in the poem comes out of Oppen's imagist and objectivist roots. Using vivid images, oppen describes a pastoral scene following deer as they bed down and graze in their forest home. The scene is interrupted in the last stanza, where the poem's speaker jolts and shocks by suggesting that the leaves in the woods and the deer are "nouns." However, the poem is not cynical—it does not reduce the deer to mere illusions of language—in fact, for oppen the word deer becomes, through the poem, a statement of "faith" in existence.

Louis zukofsky's 1931 essay "Sincerity and Objectifi-cation," defining objectivist poetics, begins by focusing on sight and perception: "optics—the lens bringing the rays from an object to a focus" (12). Objectivist poets are concerned not with a scientific or moral objectivity but with a focused artistic vision that makes the poem an object itself. zukofsky does, however, link formal achievement in poetry with the poet's emotional, artistic, and ethical "sincerity," and this concern also appears in "Psalm," in which the issue of truth itself is primary. "Psalm" opens with an epigraph taken from Thomas Aquinas: "veritas sequitur esse rerum," or "truth follows the existence of things." The relation of truth to "the existence of things" is identified by oppen—and by the objectivists generally—not so much as an ontological or epistemological one, but rather as a problem of language generally and poetry specifically. The issue for Oppen is how to make a poem that is as real (objectlike) and startling as the world "in which" the poem arises. The issue of truth as a predicament of language, not existence, has also been later taken up by postmodern writers, such as the language school of poets.

For Oppen, "Psalm," along with the several other poems that open This in Which, makes "a prelude, a statement of the metaphysical vision and the anthro-pocentric—the social as they would say" (Oppen 108). This song, in praise of deer in a forest—"that they are there"—is also an attempt to ground and bring into focus a relation with the world and "anthropocentri-cally" (Oppen 84) with humanity by way of language. In the space of the poem, the "small nouns" Oppen proclaims in his purview become a cord that can bind us to the world and to each other. The weight oppen gives to this poem is quite striking. He says in a letter, "P[salm] makes a rather desperate declaration of faith. It is true I can't convince myself that human society will survive long without some such stubborn faith—but that is almost an open declaration of desperation" (84).

"Psalm" is arguably the most visually striking of the poems in This in Which. Five four-line stanzas, each with a deeply indented first line, demands unusual attention to the visual appearance of this poem on the page. Oppen's foregrounding of the visual aspect of the material poem causes a switch in focus back and forth from the look of the poem to what the poem "looks at" through words.

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