George Oppen: Significant Father?
Apparently. At least in part.
Oppen's hiatus is better known for its political impetus. ("There are situations which cannot be honorably met by art," he said in the mid-1930s, when he devoted himself to the Communist party.) But he later explained that, besides pressures of "conscience," there were "things...I had to try out—and it was more than politics, really; it was...having a child...."
It's interesting to think about that statement in light of women artists, who in the first wave of feminism were under pressure not to have kids. A recent article in The Brooklyn Rail argues that the pressure is there still. The author, artist Sharon Butler, cites the early feminists' disdain of the "idiosyncratic, excessively inward-looking 'baby art'" that comes after childbearing. If the women "get their wits about them," the thinking went, they eventually returned "to their previous, more serious work." I'll just let that last sentence hang in the air.
Despite more women artists having kids and making art having to do with childbearing and children,and despite the art increasingly appearing in leading galleries, Butler says, art dealers who don't have children tend to neglect artists who do.
How much was that the case in poetry in the '70s, and how much is it the case today, in academia and among editors?
In the months after we adopted our son, when I worried about not writing, my friend Marcella Durand, who also had just adopted, mentioned that she was trying to give herself a full year's break. Although I feel certain she wrote during that time, the idea was that she wouldn't worry if she didn't. It seemed revolutionary, and it freed me.
Oppen said that he never stopped thinking of himself as a poet during his hiatus. That seems revolutionary, too.
(Thanks to Marcella for first pointing out the article.)