Eric Mottram: On "Exodus"

The wary spacing, the run-on and hesitant pacing of syntax, and the sense of arguing positions, with himself as much as others, in Oppen's poetic forms is an explorer's poetics, remote from the cheapening fixed metrics of dogma so familiar during the past four decades. Systematic order forced him into exile, and the poets he admired (Reznikoff, Rakosi, Zukofsky, Bunting) by and large could not speak to the people. "Gift: the Gifted" ends with a possible miracle of change in the "myopic" horizons of the popular:

among the people

they have never spoken to therefore run away


into everything the gift


the treasure is


flight my



"Miracle" in this poem and in "Exodus" (Seascape: Needle's Eye) implies a future in which our children have learned the democratic potentialities. Children are the constant gift to the world, a possible hope; and behind them, the constancy of love, whose example throughout the poems, is--if one may say it so bluntly, but without the least sentimentality--George and Mary Oppen, a ground base to all the inventions.


Title Eric Mottram: On "Exodus" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Burton Hatlen Criticism Target George Oppen
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 27 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication "The Political Responsibilities of the Poet"
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