Monday, April 2, 2012



"In 1963, Lorine Niedecker married Al Millen, a house painter. The marriage surprised several of her friends, but it gave Niedecker steady companionship from day to day and allowed her to leave her cleaning job at the hospital and devote herself more fully to writing. In October of 1964, having no book prospects on the horizon for the poems she'd written during the first year of her marriage, Niedecker took action and assembled her own—a book of thirty poems inscribed into the pages of a dime-store sketch pad, whose front and back she had covered in wrapping paper. She carefully handwrote the small poems in blue-inked cursive, placing each one on its own unnumbered sheet of paper. She then sent the book, with the wry title Homemade Poems and her name inscribed on the cover, to her friend (Cid) Corman, who was living in Japan at the time. A few months later, she constructed two more renditions of the book, which she sent to poet Louis Zukofsky in New York and Jonathan Williams, founder of the seminal Jargon Press. The titles of these latter two books were transformed from Homemade Poems to Handmade Poems.

By turns, the small poems in this three-edition self-publication move through a sprawling array of modes. Niedecker makes room here for — to name only the several categories that spring to mind — deft, vivid details from daily life; excerpts of intimate colloquial speech; sober evocations of global violence; abstracted sound-mosaics; spare "portraits" of historical figures; and found poems pulled from friends' letters (Ian Hamilton Finlay and Louis Zukofsky, "LZ")."

. . .

"My zeal for textual knowledge in this case drove me to seek out Homemade Poems in the New York Public Library's Berg Collection of English and American Literature, where the book is held as part of Cid Corman's papers. Encountering the book that day — spending time reading its poems in just the form Niedecker had so deliberately inscribed and arranged then — immediately stirred in me a conviction that the textural production itself, in some form or version, deserved a much wider readership, a life outside of the archive."

. . .

"As editor for this project, my central objective has been to create an accurate, commensurate reading edition of Homemade Poems that allows the work to be experienced roughly as Niedecker first gave to it. However well poetry is designed and printed, anthologies of all kinds necessarily have a way of superseding or drowning out the sort of reading experience described above. The very job of any massive, unified anthology is to subsume the smaller, heterogeneous works that are fed into it. In a case like Homemade Poems, this effect is even more pronounced: its singular materiality and text-deployment set it utterly apart from any sort of printed, standardized, mass-produced version."

sharing excerpts from the editor John Harkey's "Usable Dimensions: An Afterword", a pamphlet insert to Homemade Poems.

Some time soon Homemade Poems will be available from
"The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative"
The Center for the Humanities, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10016-4309.

And from us
here at Longhouse

Longhouse has also published: Lorine Niedecker, A Cooking Book
another of Lorine Niedecker's rare handmade books
coordinated and prepared by Cid Corman & Bob Arnold ~
link to our Lorine Niedecker publications here

film © susan & bob arnold