Lorine Niedecker Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although known primarily for her poetry, Lorine Niedecker (NEE-deh-kur) also wrote radio plays, creative prose, and reviews. “As I Lay Dying” condenses and adapts William Faulkner’s novel of the same title, and “Taste and Tenderness” centers on William James, Henry James, and Alice James. “Uncle,” “Untitled,” and “Switchboard Girl,” local-color sketches, provide insight into Niedecker’s family background, work experiences, and philosophy, and her reviews of the poetry of Louis Zukofsky and Cid Corman reveal Niedecker’s poetics. Of her letters, which Zukofsky early praised as her best writing, her ten-year correspondence with Corman has been published, and her thirty-year correspondence with Zukofsky is stored at the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Lorine Niedecker has proved that a twentieth century American writer does not have to travel far or have exotic experiences to be able to present her culture objectively and honestly. Although in her poetry, spring floods buckle her floors and breed water bugs under her hooked rugs, the waters also reminded her of life’s constant flux and helped her avoid becoming static and rootbound. Relying primarily on the past, nature, and long-distance support from a few fellow poets, she overcame the fragmentation and materialism of which so many twentieth century artists complain and to which they often succumb. Sincerity, hard work, and isolation from fame have helped earn for her a reputation as the twentieth century’s Emily Dickinson. In 1978, her home state recognized her achievements by awarding her the Notable Wisconsin Writers Award.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bertholf, Robert. “Lorine Niedecker: A Portrait of a Poet.” Parnassus: Poetry in Review 12/13 (Winter/Spring, 1985): 227-235. In this biographical sketch of Niedecker, Bertholf clearly places her in the context of the Objectivist poetry movement.

Crase, Douglas. “On Lorine Niedecker.” Raritan 12, no. 2 (Fall, 1992): 47. As an appraisal of the commonwealth, Niedecker’s poem “Lake Superior” extends a tradition that seems particularly American. The autobiographical elements of the poem are discussed.

Faranda, Lisa Pater, ed. Between Your House and Mine: The Letters of Lorine Niedecker to Cid Corman, 1960-1970. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1986. Faranda presents the letters written between Niedecker and poet Cid Corman, her literary executor. Provides insight into her literary acquaintances and her poetic influences. Includes index and bibliography.

Middleton, Peter. “Folk Poetry and the American Avant-Garde: Placing Lorine Niedecker.” Journal of American Studies 31 (August, 1997): 203-218. Suggests ordinary cultural acts of displacement are taken for granted by most writers and readers and describes how, for Niedecker, these acts represented highly conscious acts alien to her everyday world.

Penberthy, Jenny. Niedecker and the Correspondence with Zukofsky, 1931-1970. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Explores the forty-year correspondence between Niedecker and Louis Zukofsky, which proved a collaborative enterprise of emotional and artistic significance for both. Reconstructs Niedecker’s early years as a poet, looking at the influence of Surrealism on her work, and traces Zukofsky’s impact on her work and her struggle for recognition. Includes bibliography and index.

_______, ed. Lorine Niedecker: Woman and Poet. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine, 1996. Presents a collection of essays that greatly expands the reader’s understanding of Niedecker’s reclusive life and her body of poetry, which was largely neglected during her lifetime. Includes bibliography and index.

Upton, Lee. Defensive Measures: The Poetry of Niedecker, Bishop, Glück, and Carson. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2005. Discusses the poetry of Niedecker, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Glück, and Anne Carson, finding similarities.

Willis, Elizabeth, ed. Radical Vernacular: Lorine Niedecker and the Poetics of Place. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2008. Examines Niedecker as a writer who evoked a sense of place in her work, which centered on the same physical area.