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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Edward Dorn: Goodbye to the Illinois


Rural road, Saline County, Illinois: photo by Arthur Rothstein, January 1939

Where out of the black dirt
screens are put up, shocks
men come blindly to harvest
and eat large meals in the larger houses
and the rest of the year you sit in a small house not knowing
how many rooms you want, not guessing
how many there are
of heat giving rise to plants of illusion
soft winds blowing yellow pollen across the rows
and in seclusion babies are born
in spring, where oh but in winter
the black vanes of elders everywhere
or walnut along the river break the sky
a meaningless map, a meaningless riddle
of what in simpler life would say was lost
in space, rising as debris in tornadoes,
but were really chaffs
of hay in July, oh mother
I remember your year-long stare
across plowed flat prairielands.

Farm, Illinois
: photo by Russell Lee, January 1937

Farmland, Illinois
: photo by Russell Lee, January 1937

Mrs. Fred Morgenflash and the youngest of her six children. Morgenflash rents fifty-one acres from a private party. Near Marseille, Illinois:
photo by Russell Lee, January 1937

Backyard and porch of Fred Morgenflash's farmhouse near Marseille, Ilinois
: photo by Russell Lee, January 1937

Abandoned farm house on George Erickson's one hundred twenty acre farm near Seneca, Illinois. The land is being farmed by the owner: photo by Russell Lee, January 1937

Pump and barn on George Erickson's farm near Seneca, Illinois.
This one hundred twenty acre farm is farmed for the land. No one lives in the house: photo by Russell Lee, January 1937

Farm, Williamson County, Illinois
: photo by Russell Lee, January 1937

Illinois farm landscape along the tracks of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad en route to Chilicothe, Illinois: photo by Jack Delano, March 1943

Edward Dorn: from Three Farm Poems, in The Newly Fallen, 1961

All photos from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress




Yes, where we've come from -- and where are we now, where are we going. . . .


light coming into fog against invisible
top of ridge, sparrow calling on branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

remembering example, focused
so has rendered side of

physical thinking, closer to
“open” present, is open

grey-white of fog against top of ridge,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

Anonymous said...

The Dorn poem and the Rothstein and Lee photographs go together amazingly well: the forms (hills, fields, snow, lopsided and nearly ruined buildings) , the people and the story being told. The words make very sad, unforgettable music. Whenever I turn on the television, all I hear is noise. Steve's poem, so different and yet related, is a fascinating complement and counterpoint.

doowman said...

Tom: Obviously you were both friend to and biographer of ED. Did he talk much about that growing-up existence? (I mean clearly he WROTE about it -- what we're reading here!) What I'm getting at is a self-awareness (oh boy, he'd love that construct!) not so much a sense of being downtrodden, but of powerlessness (the mother reference reminds me of so many pics & letters of my West Virginia grandparents, et al). What I'm getting to is that this was a man who later defiantly told the world, "I know who my readers are." Like sporting comments from/about Ali (It's not bragging if you can DO it!) it seems here was a man who knew exactly who he was and where he came from -- and what he had achieved. Was that a question?

TC said...

Steve, Curtis, Doowman,

Thank you for good words.

No, Doowman, Ed didn't say much about that ancient past -- until asked. Few knew to ask.

But then who knows what, if anything, should ever be asked.

Ancient history, recent history, out and in, much unknown, little known, narrowing circles, bringing things back round to

remembering example, focused

if only as a way to stop shaking...

Some of the biographical backdrop of this poem is shared by a much later one, which also returns to the Illinois, among other of the poet's lost places:

Edward Dorn: Tribe