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Lorine Niedecker

Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970) was born on the Black Hawk Island near Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. She lived most of her life here in rural isolation. She was the only woman associated with the Objectivist poets and is widely credited for demonstrating how an Objectivist poetic could handle the personal as subject matter.

Early Life

Niedecker grew up surrounded by the sights and sounds of the river until she moved to Fork Atkinson to attend school. This world of birds, tress water and marsh was to inform her poetry for the rest of her life. On graduating from high school in [[1922], she went to Beloit College to study literature but left after two years to take care of her ailing mother. She married in 1928, but this relationship lasted only two years.

Early Writings

Niedecker's earliest poetry was marked by her reading of the Imagists, whose work she greatly admired and of surrealism. In 1931, she read the Objectivist issue of Poetry. She was fascinated by what she saw and immediately wrote to Louis Zukofsky, who had edited the issue, sending him her latest poems. This was the beginning of what proved to be a most important relationship for her development as a poet. Zukofsky suggested sending them to Poetry, where they were accepted for publication. Suddenly, Niedecker found herself in direct contact with the American poetic avant garde.

From the mid 1930s, Niedecker moved away from surrealism and started writing poems that engaged more directly with social and political realities and on her own immediate rural surroundings. Her first book, New Goose (1942), collected many of these poems.


Niedecker was not to publish another book for fifteen years. In 1969, she began work on a poem sequence called For Paul, named for Zukofsky's son. Unfortunately, Zukofsky was uncomfortable with what he viewed as the overly personal and intrusive nature of the content of the 72 poems she eventually collected under this title and discouraged publication. Partly because of her geographical isolation, even magazine publication was not easily available and in 1955 she claimed that she had published work only six times in the previous ten years.

Late Flowering

The 1960s saw a revival of interest in Niedecker's work. Wild Hawthorn Press and Fulcrum Press, both British-based, published books and magazine publication became regular. She was also befriended by a number of poets, including Cid Corman, Basil Bunting and several younger British and US poets who were interested in reclaiming the modernist heritage.

Encouraged by this interest, Niedecker started writing again. She had been working as a hospital cleaner and living in some poverty for a number of years, but in 1963 she remarried and this brought financial stability back into her life. She died in 1970 leaving several unpublished typescripts. Her Collected Works were published in 2002.

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