From a variety of angles—as a writer, as a reader, and most explicitly as a teacher—I have had many encounters with what for the moment I’ll call “the problem of the difficult poem.” None of these encounters have managed (since they have never attempted) to eliminate the problem; perhaps in the end difficulty will no longer be a problem in a troublingly pejorative sense, though I hope that it will continue to provoke puzzlement and compel fascination in the drama of consciousness that difficulty (in poetry, as in all else) produces. And none of these encounters have diminished the “difficulty,” though they have, I believe, altered its character and placed difficulty in and of itself at the center of my thinking about poetry and about the reasons one might have for teaching it.
KeywordsCollaborative Writing Unify Field Theory Difficult Text Pejorative Sense Modern Poetry
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 1.George Oppen, New Collected Poems, ed. Michael Davidson (New York: New Directions, 2002), 6.Google Scholar
- 2.Arthur Rimbaud, Complete Works, trans. Paul Schmidt (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 123.Google Scholar
- 3.George Oppen, The Selected Letters of George Oppen, ed. Rachel Blau DuPlessis (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990), xii.Google Scholar
- 4.In Elaine Scarry, ed., Fins de Siècle: English Poetry in 1590, 1690, 1790, 1890, 1990 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 1–36.Google Scholar
- 5.In George Oppen: Man and Poet, ed. Burton Hatlen (Orono, ME: National Poetry Foundation, 1981), 93.Google Scholar
- 7.Clark Coolidge, Sound as Thought: Poems 1982–1984 (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1990), 136.Google Scholar
- 8.Leslie Scalapino, New Time (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press/University Press of New England, 1999), 1.Google Scholar
- 9.Lyn Hejinian, The Language of Inquiry (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000), 301.Google Scholar
- 10.Jonathan Levin, The Poetics of Transition: Emerson, Pragmatism & American Literary Modernism (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1999), 2.Google Scholar
- 12.Peter Nicholls, “Of Being Ethical: Reflections on George Oppen,” in Journalof American Studies 31 (1997), 2, 160.Google Scholar