George Oppen (April 24, 1908 – July 7, 1984) was an American poet, best known as one of the members of the Objectivist group of poets. He abandoned poetry in the 1930s for political activism, and later moved to Mexico to avoid the attentions of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He returned to poetry — and to the United States — in 1958, and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1969.
- They have lost the metaphysical sense
Of the future, they feel themselves
The end of a chain
Of lives, single lives
And we know that lives
And cannot defend
On which rest
Of our distances.
- from "Of Being Numerous" #26, 1968; New Collected Poems, New Directions, 2002, ISBN 0-811-21488-5
- 'O city ladies'
Your coats wrapped,
Your hips a possession
Your shoes arched
Your walk is sharp
Pertain to lingerie
- from "Discrete Series", 1934; New Collected Poems, New Directions, 2002, ISBN 0-811-21488-5
- And we saw the seed,
The minuscule Sequoia seed
In the museum by the tremendous slab
Of the tree. And imagined the seed
In soil and the growth quickened
So that we saw the seed reach out, forcing
Earth thru itself into bark, wood, the green
Needles of a redwood until the tree
Stood in the room without soil—
How much of the earth's
Crust has lived
The seed’s violence!
The shock is metaphysical.
- "Return" st. 2, 1962; New Collected Poems, New Directions, 2002, ISBN 0-811-21488-5
- The steel worker on the girder
Learned not to look down, and does his work
And there are words we have learned
Not to look at,
Not to look for substance
Below them. But we are on the verge
- "The Building of the Skyscraper" st. 1, 1965; Collected Poems of George Oppen", New Directions, 1976, ISBN 0-811-20615-7
- things explain each other,
- This in Which (1965), "A Narrative", 3