…I’ve been reading the great and greatly strange Argentine writer Julio Cortazar lately, and am fascinated that one of his U.S./American translators was the poet Paul Blackburn, a poet most closely associated with the Black Mountain school, but more generally with the “new American poetry” of the 1960’s…So I’m looking up Paul Blackburn, who died in 1970at age 44, and I happen upon a statement about his poetics that he wrote in 1954….beautiful, and chilling….Here it is:
This 1954 piece was published in the book The Parallel Voyages, Sun-Gemini Press, 1987. It is reprinted here with permission:
|My poetry may not be typically American, or at least in matter, not
solely so: but I think it does make use of certain techniques which, even
when not invented by American poets, find their particular exponents
there in contemporary letters, from Pound & Doctor Williams, to younger
writers like Paul Carroll or Duncan or Creeley.
Techniques of juxtaposition.
Personally, I affirm two things:
20, the possibility of s o n g
On the matter of song: I believe there must be a return toward the
However impractical that may seem in a society controlled in some of its
most intimate aspects by monstrous, which are totally irresponsible,
corporations, organized for the greatest gain of the most profit: and whose
natural growth, like that of any organism, is toward monopoly,
self-support, self-completion, self-
and eventually self-competition and self-destruction.
In a world that is so quickly losing its individuals, it can only be the
individuals who persist, who can work any change of direction, i.e. control
the machines, or destroy them.
Machines can be very beneficent as means
to a better
life, as either
democratizing or socializing agents.
But as a means to control for the limited number of men who now own them,
(but the president or general manager of the corporation
really owns nothing but his own salary (and his power) so that
even the controlling minds of these gigantic corporate machines
are irresponsible. That is, not subject to the effects
of their own decisions)
the personnel, the individuals
are replaceable, all the way to the top. The machine, the organisation, has
itself created the position and will function without the individual, has,
in that sense created the person to fill the ‘p o s i t i o n’
and its own needs) so that
when, in these upper reaches, the ‘organisation’ the machine itself
becomes master, it can only mean disaster, global and particular.
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.
Enough man to stand where it is necessary to take a stand.
and man enough to receive, LOVE,
when he finds it offered.
To take the sun and the goods of the earth, while it lasts.
fight in whatever way he can
the monstrous machines that try, and will try, to
o b l i t e r a t e him, for