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Speaking the Estranged brings together the work by Michael Heller on the distinguished American Objectivist poet George Oppen (1908-1984), written over the past twenty years since Heller's first book on the Objectivists, Conviction's Net of Branches. These essays cover the range of Oppen's poetry and the ways it has been read at all stages of his career, from his overtly Objectivist roots through his abandonment of poetry for political activism in the thirties to his renewed poetic output after the 1950s. Heller's sustained and astute attention to Oppen, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1968, illuminates what many consider to be one of the most remarkable, complex and original bodies of work in twentieth-century literature.
‘Michael Heller’s engagement – personally, critically, and poetically – with George Oppen is without parallel. Extending from his early correspondence with Oppen to his groundbreaking book on the Objectivists, Conviction’s Net of Branches, to the acute ethical probing of his own poetry, Heller has attempted to take the measure of Oppen’s achievement from every conceivable angle. This new book, published in the year of Oppen’s centennial, displays the full fruits of one major poet’s encounter with another.’ —Stephen Fredman, author of A Menorah for Athena: Charles Reznikoff and the Jewish Dilemma of American Poetry and The Grounding of American Poetry: Charles Olson and the Emersonian Tradition
‘Not just a great book of literary criticism, Michael Heller’s Speaking the Estranged is an exhilarating examination of those 20th century literary, political, and philosophical currents that have carried us into our tumultuous present. As luminous a critic as he is a poet, Heller renews our engagement with “the mind operating in a marvel which contains the mind,” as George Oppen once put it. Through Oppen, Heller locates us and brings us home. When you finish this book, you won’t want to put it away.’ —Forrest Gander, poet and author of Eye Against Eye and A Faithful Existence
‘Whether through Heller’s articulate intervention and criticism George Oppen will ever be part of the main American poetry scene is unclear. His outsider position has a wonderful romantic shade to it.’ —Eric Jacobs, Beat Scene