Myth of the Blaze

By George Oppen 1908–1984 George Oppen
night – sky         bird’s         world
to know         to know         in my life to know

what I have said to myself

the dark to escape in brilliant highways   
of the night sky, finally   
why had they not

killed me why did they fire that warning   
wounding cannon only the one round I hold a

because of this    lost to be lost    Wyatt’s   
lyric and Rezi’s
running thru my mind
in the destroyed (and guilty) Theatre
of the War    I’d cried
and remembered
boyhood    degradation         other
degradations and this crime I will not recover   
from that landscape it will be in my mind   
it will fill my mind and this is horrible
death bed         pavement         the secret taste
of being lost


clown in the birds’   
world what names   
(but my name)

and my love’s name to speak

into the eyes
of the Tyger         blaze

of changes . . . ‘named   

the animals’         name

and name the vigorous dusty strong

animals gather
under the joists   the boards   older

than they   giving   
them darkness the gifted

dark tho names   the names   the ‘little’

words   a mountain   the cliff

a wave are taxonomy I believe   

in the world

because it is
impossible         the shack

on the coast

under the eaves
the rain barrel flooding

in the weather and no lights
across rough water illumined   
as tho the narrow

end of the funnel what are the names   
of the Tyger   to speak   
to the eyes

of the Tiger   blaze
of the tiger   who moves in the forest leaving

no scent

but the pine needles’ his eyes blink

in         the shack   
in the knife-cut
and the opaque


bread each side of the knife

George Oppen, “Myth of the Blaze” 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

Subjects Nature, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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