Editors’ note: Preface to Against the Silences, by Paul Blackburn, published by The Permanent Press, London and New York, 1981. Reprinted with permission from The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1989. — Jacket2
I’D LIKE TO SPEAK personally of this extraordinary poet, and take that license insofar as these poems are personal, often bitterly so. I wonder if any of us have escaped the painful, self-pitying and meager defenses of person so many of them invoke. What we had hoped might be, even in inept manner worked to accomplish, has come to nothing — and whose fault is that, we ask. Certainly not mine? Having known both of these dear people, and myself, I have to feel that there will never be a human answer, never one human enough.
When Paul Blackburn died in the fall of 1971, all of his company, young and old, felt a sickening, an impact of blank, gray loss. I don’t know what we hoped for, because the cancer which killed him was already irreversibly evident — and he knew it far more literally than we. But his life had finally come to a heartfelt peace, a wife and son so dear to him, that his death seemed so bitterly ironic.
Recalling now, it seems we must have first written to one another in the late forties, at the suggestion of Ezra Pound, then in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. We shared the same hopes for poetry, the same angers at what we considered its slack misuses. Paul was without question a far more accomplished craftsman than I and one day, hopefully, the evidence of his careful readings of the poems I sent him then will be common information.
I want to say a few simple things about reading, and hope that my illustrations will justify the time taken, even if the purpose to which they are put is dull. Is this an apology? I mean it to be a model of reading. For reading too is a way of taking time, one in which the ostensible aim — meaning — is often of less interest than the compensatory pleasures offered up along the way.
This dynamic — between the expectation of meaning and the sensual enjoyment of what makes meaning possible — is one manifestation of a difference we often feel between reading analytically and reading for pleasure, a difference that often collapses when we start to look closely at its constituent parts. There is, for instance, a pleasure to be had in analysis, and, likewise, there are analyses to be made in the midst of pleasure. Who can say where the emphasis should fall when push comes to shove in the mind, when confronted with lines like these by Robert Creeley:
The men in my life were three in number, a father, uncle, grand-
father — and with that father an interchangeable other — the Man — whom
to score with, scream at. The wind rises in a fucking, endless volume.
Today we’re pleased to announce the launch of PennSound Radio, a 24-hour stream of readings and conversations from the PennSound poetry archive. Our daily schedule includes rebroadcasts of such series as Live at the Writers House, Charles Bernstein's Close Listening, and Leonard Schwartz's Cross-Cultural Poetics, as well as a curated selection of our favorite performances. You can play PennSound Radio through iTunes on your computer, or by installing the free TuneIn app on your iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android device. Listen at work! At home! At the gym! While rebuilding a transmission! And while you're at it, follow us on Twitter (@PennSoundRadio) to keep up with all of our new programs and special features.
We at Jacket2 happily take note of this news report — among others, of course — announcing the selection of Fred Wah as “parliamentary poet laureate” of Canada. The photograph here was taken by Lawrence Schwartzwald.
Saskatchewan writer Fred Wah named parliamentary poet laureate Winnipeg Free Press, December 21, 2011
OTTAWA - Saskatchewan-born writer Fred Wah has been appointed as the new parliamentary poet laureate.
Wah is the fifth poet to hold the office.
He replaces Pierre DesRuisseaux, whose two-year term expired earlier this year.
The post was created in 2001, with a mandate to write poetry, especially for use in Parliament on important occasions, to sponsor poetry readings and advise the parliamentary library.
The poet is appointed by the Speaker of the Commons and Senate on the recommendation of a selection committee which included, among others, the commissioner of official languages and the head of the Canada Council.
Wah is a well-known poet who won a Governor General's Award in 1986 and is on the faculty of the Banff Centre for the Arts.