In a long and distinguished career, George Oppen never wavered from that which Ezra Pound in 1934 noted of his work: its commitment to sustained seriousness, craftsmanship, and individual sensibility. Out of this commitment, Oppen created one of the most moving and complex bodies of poetry of the twentieth century.
Oppen was one of the original Objectivist poets; his work can be associated with that of William Carlos Williams, Pound, and the Imagists. However, more than any other poet associated with that group, he was to develop a radical poetics of contingency, a poetics as wary of formalist assumptions about art as it is about naïve realism in poetry. His unique combining of imagery and rhetoric, the breadth of his subject matter, and its nearly populist strain have made his work extremely important to younger poets.
With the receipt of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1969 and an award for his distinguished contribution to poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and with increasing critical attention (much of it contained in George Oppen: Man and Poet, published in 1981), Oppen’s place in twentieth century poetry is beginning to be recognized as one of major significance.