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Introduction 1. Introduction to The Gist of Origin, ed. Cid Corman, xxxvi. For Bronk’s relationship to Origin, see Burt Kimmelman, The “Winter Mind”: William Bronk and American Letters, 22–23. 2. George Oppen, New Collected Poems, 9. All citations from Oppen’s poetry, unless otherwise indicated, will be to this volume and will hereafter appear parenthetically by page number in the text. 3. William Bronk, Life Supports: New and Collected Poems, 27–28. All citations from Bronk’s poetry, unless otherwise indicated, will be to the Talisman House edition and will hereafter appear parenthetically by page number in the text. Oppen, Bronk, and the Story behind “A Narrative” 1. In September 1963, in a letter to his sister, June Oppen Degnan, Oppen refers to the revision of “A Narrative” on which he has been working; see The Selected Letters of George Oppen, ed. Rachel Blau DuPlessis, 55, 85. The poem was originally included in Oppen’s volume This in Which (1965). 2. Oppen, Selected Letters, 381. Bronk’s first letter to Oppen is dated June 25, 1962. I quote Bronk’s letters from a typescript that David Clippinger, who is in the process of editing them, has made available to me. Cid Corman included Bronk’s poetry in all three series he published of Origin. See The Gist of Origin, ed. Cid Corman. 3. From 1934 to 1958, a twenty-five-year period that coincided with his involvement in the Communist Party, Oppen wrote no poetry. His first book, Discrete Series, was published in 1934 and his second, The Materials, not until 1962. For a brief discussion of Oppen’s itinerary, see Michael Davidson’s introduction to his edition of Oppen ’s New Collected Poems; see also Mary Oppen’s autobiography, Meaning a Life: An Autobiography. 4. It is interesting that the midcentury poets of note who championed Bronk’s poetry were all, like Oppen, affiliated with the Pound/Williams school of modern poetry. The Black Mountain poets Charles Olson and Robert Creeley are two other important examples. Bronk, an independent and even iconoclastic figure in terms of his tastes, remained indifferent to the poetry of this school; the major twentiethcentury influences on his style were Frost, Stevens, and Conrad Aiken. notes notes to pages 12–20 208 5. In a letter to Oppen dated January 25, 1963, Bronk writes: “I have been thinking how generous it was of you to make that dull journey here in the dead of winter.” 6. William Bronk, Life Supports: New and Collected Poems, 182. All citations from Bronk’s poetry, unless otherwise indicated, will be to the Talisman House edition and will hereafter be cited by page number in the text. Life Supports was originally published by North Point Press of San Francisco in 1981. On several occasions I shall quote from the original North Point Press edition. 7. See Lucretius, The Way Things Are (The De Rerum Natura of Titus Lucretius Carus), trans. Rolfe Humphries. 8. “If ‘A Narrative’ is a narrative,” writes Alan Golding, “it is one of the mind grap­ pling with epistemological and ontological problems, renewing its contact with the world and searching for an adequate language in which to talk about that world” (92). Eric Homberger associates the disjunctive style that Oppen began to forge in his first book, Discrete Series, with epistemological uncertainty and the need to be free of ideologically bound narratives. “In the face of a comprehensive and radical epistemological uncertainty,” notes Homberger, “Oppen sought an art free from the smothering cloud of anecdote and story which envelops the culture” (118). 9. Tennyson, 190. 10. The same, of course, would hold for Bronk, who was deeply attuned to developments in modern science and mathematics and to the epistemological problems those developments engendered. Oppen was aware of this, and in a letter to June Oppen Degnan of May 1963, he writes: “Not to deny that many people will assert that they feel weary confronted by Bronk. But since Bronk’s attitudes take off from Gödel, Heisenberg, Einstein, and theirs from Newtonian mechanics . . . their belief that they are in some way ahead of him is probably an illusion” (Selected Letters, 85). 11. Milton, 1:254–55. 12. In the section entitled “The Voice of the Devil” from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake writes: “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is that he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party...


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