Poet Robert Sward (in California) sent us a question during Tuesday morning's live interactive webcast featuring Jerome Rothenberg (see below). Robert asked us to ask Jerry about Paul Blackburn. Here's part of Robert's blog entry on Jerry's response:
Invited to email question(s) for Jerry Rothenberg April 29 webcast, I think of my old friend Paul Blackburn, poet and translator who died in 1971 at age 44. Given Rothenberg's work with Ethnopoetics, I recall Blackburn introducing, opening up a whole new world of poetry... reading aloud for me his translations from Spanish of the medieval epic Poema del Mio Cid, of the poetry of Frederico Garcia Lorca, Octavio Paz and the short stories of Julio Cortazar. Paul at the time (mid-1960s) was Cortazar's literary agent in the U.S.
Question: "Paul Blackburn was a dear and valued friend. I knew him in New York in the 1960s and it was Paul who introduced me and other writers to Julio Cortazar, Garcia Lorca, Octavio Paz... and Provençal poetry. To what extent did Paul Blackburn influence you and your work with Ethnopoetics?"
Rothenberg's moving response is now online--one can tap into the Writers House archives for his reply--but two points in particular stand out: 1) that Paul Blackburn, born the same year as Robert Creeley, "is the equal of Creeley as a poet," 2) and that Paul is something of a "lost poet," one who died young and did not put himself forward as Creeley had done, commenting and serving as spokesman for the Black Mountain School, for example. Paul chose not to align himself, or to allow others to align him with, the Black Mountain School or any other school.
Here is Sward's blog entry in full.
The sensibility shared by Blackburn and Rothenberg can be seen easily in this statement about poetics (in verse) by Blackburn:
I do not claim that a greater frequency of rhyme than is now made use of
in American poetry will, in time, set things right.
Only that if a man could sing the poems his poets write
- and could understand them - and if
the poets would sing something from their guts, rather than
the queasy contents of same,
then that man would stand a better
chance, of being a whole man, than
him who stands or sits and says but 'Yes' all day.
A magazine called SAS Frontiers features PennSound in its latest issue. I'm very pleased because it means, for one thing, that some of the thousands of Penn-affiliated people, mostly alumni, who will read this will have a listen to the archive. We want to extend our reach far beyond the poetics community.
There will be other, better photos of Jerome Rothenberg at the Writers House last night, but here's the one I have at hand--appearing with the article about JR's visit that appears this morning in Penn's student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. Here's a bit from that article:
KWH Faculty Director and Professor of English Al Filreis teaches the Writers House Fellows Seminar, which is the program that brings prominent authors to campus. The goal of this class is to give students the opportunity to study the work of an author in-depth and then interact with the authors themselves during the course of the semester.
In his introduction, Filreis commented on the profound effect that Rothenberg has had on the poetry world.
He emphasized that the attitude Rothenberg embodies as a poet is exactly the spirit KWH tries to create with its programs. Filreis hopes to continue to preserve this atmosphere at the Writers House by keeping its events free and open to both students and community members.
"Rothenberg is our guy. We would like to fill the space with this spirit," said Filreis.
Thanks to Erica Kaufman who checked with Alice Notley about the line in Berrigan's "3 Pages": and if the weather plays me fair....
Alice writes: "'And if the weather plays me fair' is from a folksong. Ted had an LP of Ewan M[a]cColl, the Scottish folksinger, performing whaling ballads and sea chanties. It's from one of those."