Vulcan

By George Oppen 1908–1984 George Oppen
The householder issuing to the street
Is adrift a moment in that ice stiff   
Exterior. ‘Peninsula
Low lying in the bay
And wooded—’ Native now
Are the welder and the welder’s arc
In the subway’s iron circuits:
We have not escaped each other,
Not in the forest, not here. The crippled girl hobbles   
Painfully in the new depths   
Of the subway, and painfully   
We shift our eyes. The bare rails   
And black walls contain
Labor before her birth, her twisted
Precarious birth and the men   
Laborious, burly—She sits   
Quiet, her eyes still. Slowly,   
Deliberately she sees
An anchor’s blunt fluke sink   
Thru coins and coin machines,   
The ancient iron and the voltage
In the iron beneath us in the child’s deep
Harbors into harbor sand.

George Oppen, “Vulcan” from New Collected Poems. Copyright © 1975 by George Oppen. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: New Collected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2002)

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Poet George Oppen 1908–1984

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

 George  Oppen

Biography

"George Oppen," wrote Michael Adams in The Dictionary of Literary Biography, "had one of the most unusual careers of any American poet." Oppen was one of the chief exponents of Objectivism, a school of poetry that emphasized simplicity and clarity over formal structure and rhyme. He established the movement with William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukosfky, and other poets in the early 1930s. In 1932 Oppen helped found the . . .

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SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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