Lorine Niedecker, Henri Bergson and the Poetics of Temporal Flow

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Abstract

While Niedecker's “life by water” is the subject of many of her poems, reflecting the experience of living on the flood-prone island of Black Hawk, Wisconsin, the water imagery that saturates many of her poems also becomes a way of reflecting upon time as it is experienced, of consciousness as process, of subjectivity as something pulled along by a temporal stream. The poetics of temporal flow suggests Niedecker's interest in exploring forms of experience that fall outside conscious attention and that point to her affinity with the modernist philosopher of time, Henri Bergson, whose Creative Evolution she read in 1955. This paper examines some of the short, concise poems Niedecker wrote in the 1950s, together with the later, looser-limbed poems such as “Paean to Place” where she turns away from the objectivist principles of com pression in order to produce fluid, malleable poems commensurate with the flow of experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)977-996
JournalJournal of American Studies
Volume46
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

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