Skip to main content

Donner Party Long Poems

When I was in a graduate class on writing the long poem, I decided to challenge myself. I would think of the worst possible sounding idea for a long poem. I came up with the Donner Party. I wrote about 5 pages. I kind of like it.

I've since discovered about 3 book length long poems about the Donner Party and my goal is to read each one. So far I've got my hot little man-hands on one copy:
Keithley, George. The Donner Party. New York: George Braziller, 1972.

So far I've only read the first page or so and I despise it with a deep and loving, laugh out loud, oh my god I was so right this is the worst idea ever hatred.

I've decided to risk life and limb to bring you the first stanza of this book, this marvel of mid-century writing, which since it is but a tiny portion of the poem, perhaps the copyright gods will permit me to post here:

"I am George Donner a dirt farmer
who left the snowy fields
around Springfield, Illinois
in the fullness of my life"

That's all you get--that's all I will risk for you! If you want the rest (it is sort of delicious, this first page) you can get your own copy or maybe if you offer me $5 I will sell you mine. Shipping included.

I've tried to pawn off actually reading it on someone else, but no one I know will take up the gauntlet. 254 pages of Donner Party poetry just doesn't seem to interest anyone. Friends of the Library, here I come. That was some of the best 4$ I ever spent.

Because I also bought an Amazon bargain book, American Primitive by Mary Oliver. That makes this ok. yes!!! I was going to give you guys the link, but I think I bought the only 5$ copy. I don't know if this link to a search will work, but if it does, enjoy your 5$-ish poetry books. Love, Me.

What makes the whole Donner Party poem thing interesting to me is the rejection I just got from Anti-, which goes something like this: we like the concept/concept but the lyrical bit just didn't do it for us. If you've got something similar, send it along.

They liked that it was about the Donner Party, is what I think that means! But obviously my poem didn't pull it off, and with this hefty, gray, funky-smelling volume in front of me that I can't bring myself to read, do I feel implicated. (But my line is longer! Come on!) So when I laugh at this monstrosity, maybe I laugh at my own. Oh Blackbird, publish my long cannibal poem. Please?


Popular posts from this blog

Women and Myth: Margaret Atwood and Circe

Circe, by Wright Baker "One day you simply appeared in your stupid boat," "Circe/ Mud Poems," Margaret Atwood, from You Are Happy I was alerted to this poem series by Estella Lauter's great chapter, "Margaret Atwood: Remythologizing Circe" from Women as Mythmakers. If you have the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, there is an excerpt in Vol. 2. And here is some interesting discussion of the text as well.

Feminist Ekphrasis: Margaret Atwood and Manet's Olympia

Margaret Atwood confronts the male gaze directly in her poem, "Manet's Olympia."

Armantrout's Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity

Because it doesn't seem to exist in digital form AT ALL, here's my annotation for this totally foundation feminist poetics essay. Rae Armantrout’s foundational essay “Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity,” offers a way of understanding the social in experimental poetry that is critical of a particular type of lyric subjectivity, described as univocal, closed, Romantic, imperial, and appropriative. For Armantrout, the stable poetic subject is inherently appropriative, serving epiphany demanded by mainstream form, constructed by metaphor’s appropriative nature. Armantrout specifically calls out the type of poems that most agree constitute conventional poetry of witness: “The conventional or mainstream poem today is univocal, more or less plainspoken, short narrative, often culminating in a sort of epiphany” (Armantrout 288). Elaborating, Armantrout argues that “such a form must convey an impression of closure, and wholeness, no matter what it says” (288). Closure an…