Oppen Dynamics

As objectivist author George Oppen was introduced in class on Tuesday,a few students viewed him as distant, accomplishing the complete opposite of what objectivism sought to accomplish… confusion and abstraction. I would like to introduce you all to one of his poems that we did not discuss in class and make a rudimentary attempt to show how his poetry does in fact successfully convey things with more simplicity and clarity, enough so to be considered ‘objective’.

Myself I Sing
by George Oppen

Me! he says, hand on his chest.
Actually, his shirt.
And there, perhaps,
The question.

Pioneers! But trailer people?
Wood box full of tools—
The most
American. A sort of
in themselves. A
Less than adult: old.

A pocket knife,
A tool—
And I
Here talking to the man?
The sky

That dawned along the road
And all I’ve been
Is not myself? I think myself
Is what I’ve seen and not myself

A man marooned
No longer looks for ships, imagines
Anything on the horizon. On the beach
The ocean ends in water. Finds a dune
And on the beach sits near it. Two.
He finds himself by two.
Or more.
‘Incapable of contact
Save in incidents’
And yet at night
Their weight is part of mine.
For we are all housed now, all in our apartments,
The world untended to, unwatched.
And there is nothing left out there
As night falls, but the rocks

I know you all may be thinking, there is no way that I am going to find simplicity and clarity within this poem….here goes nothing!
Firstly,I want you all to pay very close attention to the format Oppen uses. One objective of Oppen’s poetry was to focus less on format which he believed placed restrictions on poetry and deduced the significance and impact of the subject-matter. More so,the core idea behind objectivism is this suggestion that knowledge and understanding are objective, but exist only within the realms of reality, the concrete. Thus,by abandoning the formalism of traditional poetry and rejecting some of the driving mechanisms of contemporary poetry, I think Oppen takes on a different type of clarity–one that exist based on the objectivist assumption that the poem is the actual object. Thus, by rejecting these ideas of formant and structure, the poem as an object, is able to offer a more personal form of clarity based on the individual’s realm of knowledge and perception; in contrast to forcing the reader to perceive a particular thing as objectivist suggested that formalism, structure and so forth did.
Considering the subject matter, granted what he is trying to convey went over my head, I don’t think that is the purpose of objectivist writing. It is not to clarify the thoughts and ideas of the poet, but to make accessible what they believe to be ‘truth’ about poetry and art and that is “presenting abstractions concretely, in perceptual form”.
I know these ideas may seemed far-fetched, but I’m kind of limited in the assertions I can make in this blog. But, I hope that I was able to enlighten you guys a little and if not, maybe you can enlighten me!

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