Lorine Niedecker: from "Switchboard Girl"
[Niedecker wrote radio plays in the 1930s which led to her employment at WHA in Madison from 1942 to 1944 and experimented with works like the following two-page sketch which appeared in the New Directions annual of 1951. It blends dramatic voicing, compressed description, and word-play to create a sketch that is neither play nor poem nor autobiography but something in-between all of these, and that captures the tension and anxiety of applying for a job. These are the opening paragraphs.]
I divined this comedy, Dante, before I went in. But I had to have a job. "Like one who has imperfect vision, we see the things which are remote from us." O brother, we saw tho the eyes were shot. We had light if not love. We had business.
Nystagmus ("the poets eye, in a fine frenzy rolling"), the searching movement, combined with 80% vision. Youll have to use a magnifying glass, we cant give you glasses to reach print. Good-bye to proof reading. Good-bye to a living. No! That low, rangy, glass-walled office and plant in the Frank Lloyd Wright setting, clean-mowed acres, tulips, petunias, evergreens I would apply there. Not literature but light fixtures and pressure cookers. Out of daylight into Wade Light.
I was the September dandelion forty, female seeking a place among the young fluorescent petunias. I kept cropping up in the worlds backyards while here in America, on all sides they shear civilization back to the seventeen-year-old girl, not yet young shall we say.
I entered the window-walled office of personnel. Or was it a corner of a little theater? What would the director be like? A properly places man may expand his influence over the whole of your sight. We met ideally, as strangers do, without prejudice, without violence
from Lorine Niedecker, "Switchboard Girl," in James Laughlin, ed. New Directions in Prose and Poetry 1951 (Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1951), 87-88.
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