Saturday, February 04, 2006

George Oppen's Psalm

A poem I wish I'd written by George Oppen:


Veritas sequitur . . .

In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down —That they are there!

Their eyes
Effortless, the soft lips
Nuzzle and the alien small teeth
Tear at the grass

The roots of it
Dangle from their mouths
Scattering earth in the strange woods.
They who are there.

Their paths
Nibbled thru the fields, the leaves that shade them
Hang in the distances
Of sun

The small nouns
Crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.

The concision, the beauty of the images, that wonderful opening out into a kind of secular faith at the end, is truely mindblowing. Not a very critical statement that. George Oppen was one of the leading members of the so-called Objectivist movement in America, and I guess this would be an example of that type of poetry. Except in another sense, it's just a beautiful nature poem. It's also - in that last verse - about celebrating the ordinary words, the everyday language, about finding spiritual value in the world around us, rather than the high-falutin'. In that sense, it's an incarnational poem: it doesn't find meaning by looking up at the skies, it finds meaning by looking at the dirt.

1 comment:

Bill Yake said...

What I don't 'get' about this poem are the adjectives 'alien' and 'strange'. The deer's teeth and woods to which they are applied seem so only to one who is alienated, one who is 'out of place.' To notice and be awed by the specifics of the world is a great first step. But to hold them at a distance, something of a sideshow even, is for me a bit off-putting.