Lorine Niedecker

1903 - 1970

Friends of Lorine Niedecker
209 Merchants Ave
Fort Atkinson WI 53538

Amy Lutzke

Ann Engelman

Lorine Faith Niedecker was born May 12, 1903, on Blackhawk Island near Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. She was the shy daughter of a carp fisherman. In 1931 she read an issue of Poetry magazine, guest-edited by the New York poet Louis Zukofsky, who argued for Objectivism in poetry, a movement that focused on an object rather than one's feelings and conveyed its essence along a musical line. They remained intellectual friends for decades. In the years to follow, Lorine dedicated herself to poetry. Yet, despite being published by small presses and little magazines, she had to make a living. She worked in Madison in the Federal Writers Project, wrote for radio station WHA and became a proofreader at Hoard's Dairyman in Fort Atkinson. Failing eyesight forced her to leave Hoard's, and she took a job as cleaning woman in the Fort Atkinson Hospital. This drudgery ended when she married Al Millen, an industrial painter from Milwaukee in 1963. They lived in a tiny apartment until his retirement in 1968 when they returned to Blackhawk Island where Lorine built them a cottage on property inherited from her father.

.During her lifetime, Lorine saw only four books of poetry published: New Goose, My Friend Tree, North Central and T&G, though she was published frequently in literary magazines, most significantly in Origin. Between the years 1963 and her death from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1970, she expanded as a poet, writing longer poems like “Wintergreen Ridge” and the haunting, autobiographical “Paean to Place.” Admired by her poetic peers, Lorine Niedecker's reputation as a major twentieth-century poet has expanded since her death with the publication of her collected works, two editions of correspondence and a biography.

The Granite Pail: Selected Poems of Lorine Niedecker, Edited by Cid Corman, Gnomon Press, 1985

Lorine Niedecker Collected Works, Edited by Jenny Penberthy, University of California Press, 2002.

America’s Greatest Unkown Poet, by John Lehman, Zelda Wilde Press, 2003.

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

One of the finest American poets of all, besides being easily the finest female American poet.
— Basil Bunting
Lorine Niedecker proves a major poet of the 20th century, just as Emily Dickinson was for the 19th. Bleak indeed that both should have been so curiously ignored when their work defined the time in which they lived with such genius.
— Robert Greeley


We must pull
the curtains—
we haven't any


What bird would light
in a moving tree
the tree I carry
for privacy?

Down in the grass
the question's inept;
sora's eyes …
stillness steps.


Poems used by permission of Lorine Niedecker's literary executor:

Bob Arnold
Longhouse, publishers & booksellers
P.O. Box 2454
West Brattleboro, Vermont 05303

I was the solitary plover
a pencil
     for a wing-bone
From the secret notes
I must tilt

upon the pressure
execute and adjust
In us sea-air rhythm
“We live by the urgent wave
of the verse”


My friend tree
I sawed you down
but I must attend
an older friend
the sun


Get a load
of April's

frog rattle—
lowland freight cars
in the night


Popcorn-can cover
screwed to the wall
over a hole
so the cold
can't mouse in