Tom Montag, aka The Middlewesterner, gave a talk about Lorine Niedecker (one of my favorites) at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County in Baraboo, Wisconsin; he’s kindly posted it, and its a good, detailed, meaty examination of how the great, too-little-known poet got her effects—just keep following the “Continued here” links at the end of each page, and for ease of reference I’ll link to the Exhibits (bits of her poems that he discusses) and Notes. This is very well said:

I think Niedecker was not particularly concerned with “meaning” in the denotative sense. She was concerned with the thing, and with “something else” beyond that, but it doesn’t seem to me that she was intent on making unequivocal and definitive statements. I’ll venture that for Niedecker, poetry was closer to painting than to philosophy. The painter dabs color onto the canvas just so, but what do color and shape and line mean? What does a dab of cobalt put here mean? That’s not a question Niedecker would ask.

Thanks to Dave Bonta for the link, and I envy both Tom and Dave their visit to Montreal for a blogswarm (which I found out about via this post of Lorianne’s).

And speaking of swarms, don’t miss Dave’s amazing photographs of a swarm of bees on a tree branch.


  1. Oh gosh. Lorine Niedecker. How excellent to hear her name again. I haven’t looked at my copy of The granite pail in a shamefully long time. Thanks, Hat.

  2. Actually, during said blogswarm we made specific mention of your expertise, debating whether “loon” (the bird) is etymologically related to “lunacy.” One sub-swarm argued that loons are “loony” because they call to the same moon that drives lunatics crazy…but I argued that the word “loon” didn’t derive from “luna” at all.
    My case was infinitely weakened by the fact that I couldn’t give the precise etymology of “loon”…but this disagreement notwithstanding, we *all* agreed that you would know the answer.
    So, do you care to enlighten us?

  3. I’m happy to report that you’re absolutely correct: loon seems to be a modification of earlier loom, which is from Old Norse lómr. You may give your instincts the LH seal of approval.

  4. And lomr’ mean “lame”, as I’m sure that Hat intended to continue. Loons are a water bird and very clumsy on land.
    Lots of loon information at my URL. One of my favorite birds.

  5. A belated thank-you to LH & John Emerson for the info re. loons. I would have (blindly) guessed that “loon” was derived from a Native American word…but since the birds are (I believe) circumpolar, it makes sense that they’d have a Norse name.

  6. Ha! And my guess was that there might be a lunar/night/madness reference in the noise they make – and having just, in the middle of typing this, gone to vist John’s magnificent page and read the following:
    “their deranged call is their trademark. The loon’s tremolo call can be heard five miles away in the silence of the woods, and I’ve read that some nights every loon around will be calling to the others, with the result that a whole lake district of hundreds of square miles, beyond the horizon, will be filled with the call-and-response of loon solos”
    I take pleasure from the fact that although wrong I was also right. As it were.
    Of course over here we call them divers not loons.
    Which raises an interesting (to me) question – which variety of loon is Coleridge’s? `Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’ Did the old Norse move from the UK to the US and we then lost it or did we never have the “lame” sense at all?

  7. “Whey-faced loon” is seen in Shakespeare (Macbeth I think) and Coleridge’s loon sounds like a conscious transformation of that specific passage(“whey-faced” meant “beardless”).
    Subject to correction — I read the Shakespeare 40+ years ago.

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