Sunday, February 03, 2008

On George Oppen's "Ballad" (PoemTalk #3)


Above is a link to an intelligent conversation on George Oppen's
poem "Ballad."

The segment is part of the new PoemTalk series hosted by hosted
by Al Filreis.
The guests on the show are Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Linh Dinh, and Jessica Lowenthal.

The PoemTalk segment opens with a fine recording of Oppen reading the poem. I had a copy of "Ballad" in front of me as I listened, which I found helpful. The poem opens:
Astrolabes and lexicons
Once in the great houses--

A poor lobsterman
Met by chance

On Swan's Island
It's worth mentioning that the poem is last in Oppen's book Of Being Numerous. The first and last poems in a book are often strong, or somehow important for the author. This is certainly a significant one for Oppen. Still, for me, even though I've read the poem numerous times, I feel like I've just discovered it today because this conversation (and recording of Oppen) sent me back to it. Above all, what I like best about the conversation here is its openness.