A Product of Her Surroundings

In many works of art and literature, evidence of the environment that the author comes from is shown in what they produce. This is very much the case for the poet Lorine Niedecker. Niedecker was born and lived most of her life in the Wisconsin wilderness area. She briefly went to college but she had to quit to take care of her family. This must have been a devastating blow to her as she thoroughly enjoyed college and was involved. After this she married a farmer’s son and began working at a library, though her real passion was for poetry. Her marriage lasted for two years and they then separated. She published some works but to little magazines and publishing firms. This did not support her very well so she had to get other jobs working in writing. Unfortunately, though she had poor eyesight and had to settle for working a menial cleaning job. She remarried again 38 years after her separation. Much of her environment and experiences are echoed in the poetry that we read from her in this class.

In the poem “I Married”, it can be argued that her unhappiness with her first marriage is exhibited. The speaker talks about how they married so that she may have the warmth of a man in the world’s black night. This could symbolize financial and emotional security that she would have been lacking after she had to leave college because her father could not afford the tuition. As the poem goes on though we learned that she did not get the security that she thought she would get from this man though. Instead she felt trapped shown in the end of the poem when she says “I married and lived unburied, I thought—“.  She thought the marriage would free her but instead she felt buried still in the world’s black night.

Evidence of the influence of her surroundings is also found in her bountiful poems contemplating the beauty of the Wisconsin wilderness. One poem in particular is called Wintergreen Ridge. In this poem she just comments on the beauty of the little pieces of nature and how it is important to conserve it and leave it beautiful. The poem does take an odd turn in the end though we it discusses the murder in the chapel. I feel like this can be related to the soiling of nature.

One final poem where her the effect of her environment is demonstrated through her work is A Paean for Peace. In this work she opens by describing the marsh land and the water lily mud and how this is the fabric of her life. She weaves the water covered land and fishing life throughout the poem which assumedly tells the story of her life. Her family owned a cabin which would flood in the spring months. This was just life for them and they would scoop the water out or walk on stilts. She included this in her poem when she says, “who knew how to clean up after floods, he who bailed boats, houses Water endows us, with buckled floors”.

Lorine Niedecker’s poetry was a product of her small town Wisconsin lifestyle. The beauty of the poetry she produced allowed us to see the beauty of the Wisconsin wilderness that she cared so much about.



Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Inc. “Lorine Niedecker: A Short Biography.” Lorine Niedecker. Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Inc., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

Peters, Margot, Lorine Niedecker: A Poet’s Life, University of Wisconsin Press, 2011.



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