By George Oppen 1908–1984 George Oppen
I dreamed myself of their people, I am of their people,   
I thought they watched me that I watched them   
that they

watched the sun and the clouds for the cities   
are no longer mine    image    images

of existence    (or song

of myself?)    and the roads for the light   
in the rear-view mirror is not   
death but the light

of other lives tho if I stumble on a rock I speak   
of rock if I am to say    anything      anything   
if I am to tell of myself    splendor
of the roads    secrecy

of paths for a word like a glass

sphere encloses   
the word opening   
and opening

myself and I am sick   

for a moment

with fear let the magic
infants speak we who have brought steel

and stone again   
and again

into the cities in that word blind

word must speak   
and speak the magic

infants’ speech driving   
northward the populist
north slowly in the sunrise the lapping

of shallow   
waters tongues

of the inlets glisten
like fur in the low tides all that

childhood envied the sounds   

of the ocean

over the flatlands poems piers foolhardy

structures and the lives the ingenious   
lives the winds

squall from the grazing   
ranches’ wandering

fences young workmen’s

loneliness on the structures has touched   
and touched the heavy tools    tools   
in our hands in the clamorous

country birth-
light savage

light of the landscape magic

page the magic   
infants speak

George Oppen, “Populist” 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

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 George  Oppen


George Oppen, a prominent American poet, was one of the chief exponents of Objectivism, a school of poetry that emphasized simplicity and clarity over formal structure and rhyme. Born in 1908 to a wealth family and expelled from a high school military academy, Oppen and his wife Mary travelled across the country, finding work wherever they could, until he received a small inheritance at 21. With these funds, the couple moved to . . .

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SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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