Literary Criticism and Poetry

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The Oppens Remembered: Poetry, Politics, and Friendship

Edited by Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Poet George Oppen (1908–1984) and artist and writer Mary Oppen (1908–1990) were striking, exemplary, and somewhat mysterious cultural figures of the last decades of the twentieth century. To a younger group of artists, George Oppen functioned as a mentor, an irritant, and a supporter. Together, because of their intense and unique union, the Oppens provided a model of the companionate artistic life. In this book the poets, editors, writers, composers, and teachers who knew the couple consider their encounters and relationships with George and Mary Oppen. Set at a politically crucial time in US history, from the Cold War through the Vietnam War and the women’s movement, the essays show how people tried to integrate art and politics in the spirit of the Oppens’ own debates and choices.


Award-winning poet Rachel Blau DuPlessis, professor emerita of English at Temple University, is also a critic and scholar with a special interest in modern and contemporary poetry. She is the author of several critical books, including Genders, Races, and Religious Cultures in Modern American Poetry, 1908–1934. DuPlessis is also the editor of The Selected Letters of George Oppen.


“A moving and insightful consideration of George and Mary’s life and work, and a reminder that a good biography is its own art.”



“Commendable for its balance of critical insight and personal anecdote, The Oppens Remembered chronicles a truly noble literary couple that deserves wider recognition for their grace, talent, and inspirational example during the most volatile decades of the twentieth century.”



“So significant and an informative delight to read. . . . A wide-ranging, diverse reflection of the core components within the relationship between the Oppens themselves and the friendships they shared.”



6.125 x 9.25 in. 288 pages