It’s Lorine Niedecker day over at wood s lot, with a couple of poems and some good links, including one that explained something I hadn’t understood. This article by Jim Higgins is about “Lorine Niedecker: A Centenary Celebration,” a three-day program of panel discussions, readings, tours and performances that begins Thursday in Milwaukee:

Dozens of writers, scholars and presenters will join the 100-plus registered participants. Special guests include Cid Corman, a poet, publisher and longtime Niedecker friend; Michael Ondaatje, a novelist (“The English Patient”), poet and filmmaker; and Anne Waldman, a popular poet and performer who’s associated with both the Beats and the New York School poets.

But it starts off with a wonderful little Niedecker poem called “Poet’s Work”:

  advised me:
    Learn a trade

I learned
  to sit at desk
    and condense

No layoff
  from this

It then says, “That word ‘condensery’ – a place where condensed or evaporated milk is made – suggests both Niedecker’s Wisconsin home and her process of creating through concision.” And here I vaguely supposed she had made it up! I should have known better; she’s the most concrete of poets, not given to flights of lexical fancy. Now, of course, the poem makes more sense: “layoff” was a very real threat at a Wisconsin condensery. And if you’re curious as to what a condensery looks like, here’s a Carnation Condensery c1925.

Addendum. The Electronic Poetry Center has put online a nice selection of Niedecker’s poems. (Again via wood s lot.)

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