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Algren the Poet

Nelson Algren wasn't particularly well-known as a poet, so when I learned that Poetry magazine has put its complete archives online (all the way back to 1912), I went looking for him there merely on a whim. On top of his presumably limited poetic output, I also figured that Poetry was enough of an establishment publication that the outsider-ish Algren might not have been eager to publish there. Imagine my surprise, then, to see the archives yield the following:

"Home and Goodnight"
"Travelog"
"Local South"
"How Long Blues"
"Epitaph: The Man With the Golden Arm"

My office computer is being maddeningly balky today, so I'm having trouble navigating these, but here are the first few lines of "Home and Goodnight":

Tell the 26-game nifties they can all go home now:
The streets are getting lighter and the Clark Street cars are running again;
Each can turn off a little green night bulb
Lay the nightlamp lengthwise along the green baize of the 26-board
Put the big colored dice back in the faded shaker,
Have one last cigarette in the can and go home.

Sounds a lot like his prose, which even in its more brutal moments always had a lyrical quality.

April 11, 2011 in Books | Permalink

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