Columns by Gerald Stern

The Early Poems of Gerald Stern

6.21.10

What I attempted to do in this Early Collected—the first six books of my collected poems—is to reach out simultaneously for a new language and a new subject matter. I was interested in that which was overlooked, neglected, and unseen, from a political, religious, and personal point of view and a voice that bespoke this in the simplest, most honest manner. I found myself returning to early—to fundamental—experiences, as I found myself discovering a new language. This constituted a celebration as well as a kind of mourning or elegy, and the results can be seen in such poems as “Lucky Life,” “The Blue Tie,” “Stepping Out of Poetry,” and “Bob Summer: The Final Poem.” This was a difficult road to hoe, for it expressed neither formal, academic niceness nor bohemian madness. If there are sources they are variously in the Hebrew prophets, in Blake, in Whitman, in Ovid, in Coleridge, and, as far as modern poets, in Yeats, Stevens, Pound, and Hart Crane.

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Completely Political

8.24.09

Budd Schulberg who wrote “On the Waterfront,” died this August at 95. He was famous for his novels, short stories and screenplays, and for the fact that he named names (unfortunately and unforgivably) for the McCarren-Walter Un-American Activities Committee, a precursor to McCarthy and McCarthyism, but was more or less unknown to the new generation. He said that it was the writer’s duty to speak out against injustice.

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