was born in 1915 in Seattle, Washington, son of a very poor family. His formal education is hardly worth mentioning. At the age of fourteen he turned his back on Seattle and the family; a little later he joined the U.S. navy. In 1937 he took part in the Spanish Civil War. Durem is nomadic. However, he pitches his tents mainly in the western parts of the States. He earns his living, occasionally, as a television technician.
The poem, I Know I'm Not Sufficiently Obscure, is taken from the anthology IK ZAG HOE ZWART IK WAS and printed by kind permission of the publisher, Piet Bakker ( The Hague, Holland, 1958).
I KNOW I'M NOT SUFFICIENTLY OBSCURE
I know I'm not sufficiently obscure
to please the critics--nor devious enough.
Imagery escapes me.
I cannot find those mild and gracious words
to clothe the carnage.
Blood is blood and murder's murder.
What's a lavender word for lynch?
Come, you pale poets, wan, refined and dreamy:
here is a black woman working out her guts
in a white man's kitchen
for little money and no glory.
How should I tell that story?
There is a black boy, blacker still from death,
face down in the cold Korean mud.
Come on with your effervescent jive
explain to him why he ain't alive.
Reword our specific discontent
into some plaintive melody,
a little whine, a little whimper,
not too much--and no rebellion!
God, no! Rebellion's much too corny.
You deal with finer feelings,
very subtle--an autumn leaf
hanging from a tree--I see a body!