In his review of Eliot Weinberger’s Oranges and Peanuts For Sale (September 2009), Michael Sandlin describes Vicente Huidobro, George Oppen and Gu Cheng as “obscure long-deceased poets.” That Sandlin finds it problematic for a writer to devote attention to poets who have the misfortune to be “obscure” and “long-deceased” is lamentable, but what’s worse is the gross inaccuracy of his characterizations. Gu Cheng died in 1993 (at the age of 37); a collection of his work in English was brought out in 1995 by George Braziller, one of the great names in U.S. publishing. As for Huidobro (d. 1948) and Oppen (d. 1984), they may be shamefully “long-deceased,” at least in Sandlin’s truncated time-frame, but anyone with even a superficial knowledge of 20th-century poetry should instantly recognize their names. Huidobro was a crucial figure in the modernist avant-garde of the teens and twenties, in Paris and his native Chile; Oppen was a central member of the Objectivists, one of the most influential movements in American poetry. For what it’s worth, he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969. Last year New Directions published a new 425-page edition of his collected poems. Michael Sandlin might want to take a look at it.
Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.