Cid Corman

Response to Cid Corman in Kyoto

By Carol Williams

Shizumi Konishi / Corman (left) and Daphne Marlatt in Kyoto (photo by Carol Williams)

I am delighted to be in touch with Carol Williams, a dear friend of Shizumi Konishi (Corman), Cid Corman’s wife of many years in Kyoto, Japan. Carol read J2’s recent feature on Corman with pleasure, and wrote me with further details about Shizumi and the Cormans’ life together in Japan. I urged her to let me publish a few of her notes, and they follow. — Al Filreis

I have just come across the article “Basho’s Pheasant” which I enjoyed immensely, but feel I should make the following corrections.

We lived just outside Kyoto for five years and became very close to Shizumi Konishi / Corman, shortly after Cid’s death, meeting her at least once a week, sharing meals and exploring places together both inside and outside the city.  She also came to stay with us on several occasions such as American Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Shizumi spoke of Cid, his family and her own at great length so I feeI I can safely say that she would be turning over in her grave at being described as a “native of Kyoto.” The Konishi family was from Kusatsu, a city outside Hiroshima, and moved to Kyoto shortly before the outbreak of W W II.  As stated by George Evans, outsiders were treated 'politely' by those who were really from Kyoto, i.e. that their family had been there several hundred years. 

To keep you from going

Defining key aspects of the modern — can’t be done simply. But why not try? Here’s one. The modern poem isn’t about expression or expressiveness, something the poet has urgently wanted to say. It’s primarily neither topical nor personal in the accepted 20th-century sense of the person who has things “inside” that must be said, written, conveyed. The poem isn’t telling you you should or must know something. It doesn't cover or fill a gap, a need, a want. The poem is merely (oh that huge “merely” — but I don’t mean it trivially) a means of keeping a reader from going from it, a detention, a planning to stay, and then — in it — is a remnant of the poet, all we know of him or her at that moment, then (now, the time of coming upon the words) and here (in the poem itself, making an inside that's nowhere else but where it is).

To the extent that the above definition is apt and useful, then the modern verse mode derives largely from Emily Dickinson, who in more than half her poems makes the point I've made above the matter of the poem.

And Cid Corman, not otherwise deemed Dickinsonian, is surely getting at this in this poem:

It isnt for want
of something to say—
something to tell you—

something you should know—
but to detain you--
keep you from going—

feeling myself here
as long as you are—
as long as you are.


And here is a recording of Cid Corman reading that poem.

Living with terror (PoemTalk #23)

Cid Corman, 'Enuresis'

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Back in 2001 the people of the Kelly Writers House wanted to bring Cid Corman — long by then a resident of Kyoto, Japan — to Philadelphia to be with us, give a reading, meet some of his readers. But one thing or another — cost, Cid’s health — made this impossible. So we set up a combination of a phone link to Cid in Kyoto and a live audiocast feed; in this way, the fifty of us in the Arts Café of the Writers House and another 75 or so listening on their computers around the world were able to enjoy a reading by Cid, ask him questions, and make at least that limited sort of contact with the founder of Origin, crusty prolific exile, author of tens of thousands of poems. The November 2001 event was moderated by PoemTalk’s producer and host, Al Filreis, along with Frank Sherlock, Fran Ryan, and Tom Devaney.

Fast forward. Cid Corman died in 2004. Bob Arnold, Philip Rowland, Jack Kimball, Joe Massey and others have worked hard to keep Cid’s poems within the view of readers — especially Bob Arnold whose Longhouse Press published The Next One Thousand Years, the Selected Poems of Cid Corman. And then, as part of the PoemTalk series, we staged a mini-reunion of the November 2001 Cormanite moderators, Fran, Tom, Frank and Al, to talk about one of our favorite poems, “Enuresis.”

It means bed-wetting. The poem puts forward this audacious claim to understanding: I know the terror you’ve experienced in the midst of war because as a child I held my urine close to me for fear of my parents’ terrifying enmity. The claim is made with such poetic consciousness (at the level of word choice and meter - and in the spoken performance) that one hardly doubts the power of the homefront psychic terror being remembered.

Living with terror (PoemTalk #23)

Cid Corman, "Enuresis"

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Back in 2001 the people of the Kelly Writers House wanted to bring Cid Corman--long by then a resident of Kyoto, Japan--to Philadelphia to be with us, give a reading, meet some of his readers. But one thing or another--cost, Cid's health--made this impossible. So we set up a combination of a phone link to Cid in Kyoto and a live audiocast feed; in this way, the fifty of us in the Arts Cafe of the Writers House and another 75 or so listening on their computers around the world were able to enjoy a reading by Cid, ask him questions, and make at least that limited sort of contact with the founder of Origin, crusty prolific exile, author of tens of thousands of poems. The November 2001 event was moderated by PoemTalk's producer and host, Al Filreis, along with Frank Sherlock, Fran Ryan and Tom Devaney.

Fast forward. Cid Corman died in 2004. Bob Arnold, Philip Rowland, Jack Kimball, Joe Massey and others have worked hard to keep Cid's poems within the view of readers--especially Bob Arnold whose Longhouse Press published The Next One Thousand Years, the Selected Poems of Cid Corman. And then, as part of the PoemTalk series, we staged a mini-reunion of the November 2001 Cormanite moderators, Fran, Tom, Frank and Al, to talk about one of our favorite poems, "Enuresis."

It means bed-wetting. The poem puts forward this audacious claim to understanding: I know the terror you've experienced in the midst of war because as a child I held my urine close to me for fear of my parents' terrifying enmity. The claim is made with such poetic consciousness (at the level of word choice and meter - and in the spoken performance) that one hardly doubts the power of the homefront psychic terror being remembered.

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