Author: Joel Oppenheimer
Publisher: White Pine Press (1987)
His last book prior to death in 1988, Oppenheimer's Why Not is a brief collection of scattered poems that contains a number of spare and understated gems. In his characteristically pure language, these poems pare the affairs of daily life. In "The Lesson," a young son struggles with his compass to create "either a / very large moon / or a small planet." Compressed, objective, and revelatory, Oppenheimer may well be the most accessible of the Black Mountain poets. Themes as well-worked as risk and beauty wind around one another with keen physical attention couched in organically-sensuous, occasionally veering, conversational lines: "forty miles beyond it deep in the valley of risk, you dare you have told me to be beautiful to feel things, you look at the hills now as well as the people and as well as the colors and shapes" (from "For A Painter Beyond Hazardville"). Joel Oppenheimer was a marvelous, lucid poet whose taut, lean poems are solidly "in the american grain."