George Oppen: A Radical Practice

By Susan Thackrey


O Books
Original Language(s)
Additional Credits
Cover art by Leslie Scalapino
Design by Guy Bennett
Edition, Year
First Edition, 2001
In Print

Co-published by The Poetry Center & American Poetry Archives

George Oppen: A Radical Practice is a critical reading of Oppen’s life and work. In this book-length essay, Thackrey engages with the philosophical underpinnings of Oppen’s poetics, specifically in relation to Martin Heidegger. The essay was originally presented at the 16th annual George Oppen Memorial Lecture in Twentieth Century Poetics, San Francisco State University. 

From Thackrey’s introduction:

“George Oppen exercised a very specific form of poetic practice that was meant to permit and show forth true, and truthful, lived experience… In his practice Oppen simply refused a poetics that was based anywhere other than in this present experience. If in fact this practice could be found to be in any way limiting, it has nevertheless given us the great gift of a poetry and a poetics that can be radically trusted.”

Susan Thackrey
Susan Thackrey, a poet who lives and works in San Francisco, began to compose poetry at the age of three. She was an inaugurating student in the Poetics Program at New College in San Francisco in 1980, and ... Read More

Praise for George Oppen: A Radical Practice

“A Radical Practice” indeed. Susan Thackrey’s meeting with George Oppen’s poetry and other writings—in fact, the whole of his available body of work gets implicated—is as courageous, revealing, and unfailingly “studiously unprepared” an encounter of poet with poet as I know. She dares the risk of stepping into the heart of Oppen’s lifelong philosophic and artistic task, meanwhile unceasingly opening doors the rest of us might follow thru. This generous reading arrives at recognitions that (as Oppen knew) are simply not possible outside poetry.

— Steve Dickison

Susan Thackrey’s essay provides a deep and precise account of Oppen as intellectual and as poet. It is especially noteworthy for its clear and persuasive account of how the poem can be “mind in the world, coming into being, not mind or world, not one being a content or about the other.” And I cannot think of a more incisive account of how Heidegger mattered for Oppen and can matter for contemporaries.

— Charles Altieri

George Oppen’s writing and thinking have emerged as central to twentieth century poetry. Susan Thackrey’s study of “poetry and a poetics that can be radically trusted” attends to the three overt moments in which George Oppen’s poetry and Martin Heidegger’s thought intersect. These three moments are unusual in their variety — they occur by coincidence, by choice, and in an amazing dream with multiple implications. Thackrey’s lucid and pensive essay acknowledges the pressures and mysteries of these moments, as she clarifies, through them, Oppen’s investigations of “the arduous path of appearance.”

— Rachel Blau DuPlessis

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