Joel Oppenheimer Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

In addition to writing book reviews and critiques, introductions, and jacket blurbs, Joel Oppenheimer (AHP-puhn-hi-muhr) worked on the primary level as a printer and typographer. He was also a regular columnist for The Village Voice from 1969 to 1984.

Oppenheimer wrote several plays that have been performed off-off-Broadway: The Great American Desert (pr. 1961), Miss Right (pr. 1962), and Like a Hill (pr. 1963). Oppenheimer’s collection of short stories, Pan’s Eyes, was published in 1974. Through the aficionado’s eyes, he has viewed popular American culture in The Wrong Season (1973) and Marilyn Lives! (1981). The Wrong Season re-creates the year 1972 from the point of view of a disappointed New York Mets baseball fan. With interviews, photographs, personal narrative, and poems, Marilyn Lives! looks at the life of Marilyn Monroe.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

For the first fifteen years of his writing career, Joel Oppenheimer worked, in the tradition of William Carlos Williams or Wallace Stevens, outside the university to support himself and his writing, mostly as a production manager for printing firms. Beginning in 1969, he became an active presence at various universities, teaching and giving poetry readings. His work was recognized by his appointments as director of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project and the New York City Teachers and Writers Collaborative, as well as by such awards as the Creative Artists Public Service Fellowship (1971) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (1980). In addition, he held poet-in-residence positions at the City College of New York and at New England College and visiting professorships at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in North Carolina and the Black Mountain II College at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In his own words, his achievement was that he “made poems and children much of his adult life, and also a living.”


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bertholf, Robert J. Remembering Joel Oppenheimer. Jersey City, N.J.: Talisman House, 2006. In this work, Bertholf, the editor of The Collected Later Poems of Joel Oppenheimer, recalls his relationship with the poet.

Gilmore, Lyman. Don’t Touch the Poet: The Life and Times of Joel Oppenheimer. Jersey City, N.J.: Talisman House, 1998. Gilmore has done an admirable job of balancing views about Oppenheimer and goes beyond facade to show a man obsessed with magic, routine, and lists. Gilmore provides a very human view of the Black Mountain and Greenwich Village poetry world of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Landrey, David W. “Simply Survival: David Budbill and Joel Oppenheimer.” Credences, n.s. 1 (Fall/Winter, 1981/1982): 150-157. This article explores the two poets’ shared quest for life, knowledge, and understanding, their different approaches to their work, and their shared need for a changed sense of self through poetry. Particularly significant is the discussion of Oppenheimer working from the inside out. Several themes are pointed out and short examples given.

Oppenheimer, Joel. “Interview with Joel Oppenheimer.” Interview by Christopher Beach. Sagetrieb 7 (Fall, 1978): 89-130. An informative interview conducted ten years before the poet’s death. Contains Oppenheimer’s comments on...

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