Joseph Bradshaw: In the Common Dream of George Oppen
Published 15 March 2011
Paperback, 90pp, 8.5x5.5ins, £8.95 / $15
The life of George Oppen (1908–1984) thwarted the expectations of a literary career. After publishing his first book at 26 with a preface by Ezra Pound, Oppen gave up poetry to become an organizer for the Communist Party. At the age of 37 he served at the front lines in WWII, considering it his duty as a Jew to fight fascism. After receiving a Purple Heart and returning to the U.S. he immediately was forced into hiding, due to his Red past in the age of McCarthyism. After a 25-year hiatus from poetry he returned to the art in his 50s, writing and publishing seven books, one of which—Of Being Numerous—won a Pulitzer Prize.
Comprised of both poetry and essays, Joseph Bradshaw's In the Common Dream of George Oppen makes its premise to imagine what bodies of work might exist in Oppen's fabled 25 year silence. By turns, the book forcefully projects a singularly fabricated biography onto the figure of Oppen, then self-reflexively retracts, divagating through a poet's desire for mentorship and community. Bringing in everything from ruminations on blurry memories of Idaho's landscape, to dialogues held across centuries & continents with the likes of figures such as the Elephant Man, In the Common Dream of George Oppen brushes up against the fragile boundary between the finished and the unfinished poem, or a finished or unfinished life.
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