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In Praise of Small Things

I’ve been reading early Lorine Niedecker poems and experiencing the wonder of the small poem: precise and clean.

From the library, I checked out T&G: The Collected Poems (1936-1966), published in 1968 by the Jargon Society (a slim gem of a book with beautiful plant prints) and The Granite Pail (North Point, 1985). I keep returning to the questions she poses, the images she conjures. Here, I’m scattering them like bits of light:

What bird would light
in a moving tree
the tree I carry
for privacy?
Down in the grass
the question’s inept,
sora’s eyes“
stillness steps.

Like the sora itself, these are small, secretive poems. Not fully discoverable, they hold a universe of mystery within their brief lines.

:: :: ::

I flew into New York City yesterday afternoon, and the plane took my favorite approach path: from the south, over New Jersey, right above the Verrazonno bridge, across Brooklyn and into Queens.



Yesterday, more than usual, the whole thing looked like a toy city: tiny green statue in the harbor, the blue box of Ikea, neat rows of brownstones, Grand Army Plaza’s little round coin. The Manhattan skyscrapers seemed diminutive and particularly precise against the gray sky.

Under the uniform clouds and without bright light casting shadows, it was as if every edge held its own integrity, its own small secret.

How white the gulls
in grey weather
_____Soon April
______the little

Soon I reached home, my tiny apartment and a little grey cat as light as a book of poems.


Now, I’m in the city–the thick mess of it–and the clarity I witness from above flickers and blurs.

Poet’s Work

advised me:
______Learn a trade

I learned
__to sit at desk
______and condense

No layoff
__from this

So much to be learned from this work of “condensery”–how to see and cull essentials. To not lose the precision of the life’s pattern as seen from above, from afar. How to find the single, slender stroke that carves out a poem we can hold on the tongue, a small spark of language easily memorized and recited in moments of blank waiting or hazy tumult, a quick hummingbird of poem.

To my pres-
sure pump

I’ve been free
_______with less
_________and clean
I plumbed for principles

Now I’m jet-bound
by faucet shower
heater valve
ring seal service

cost to my little