by Brad Haas


   Despite readers who would descry the poetry of Louis Zukofsky or Charles Olson as unnecessarily complex, the two could at times revert to the utterly evident. Zukofsky was intensely interested in the inherent meanings he could discern from the physical form of words, and even the relationship words and letters had to their order in the alphabet (who with a name beginning with the last letter of the alphabet wouldn't be?). As Don Byrd has said, Zuk's "A", Bottom: on Shakespeare, and Catullus form the 'A B C' of his canon. Olson was not above such associations either. Himself a physical giant, his 'Maximus' mirrors this largeness embodied in a gigantic poem. It is in this spirit that I see Corman's name, and in seeing it I discern its elements: CORE. MAN. A man at the core. No person was more at the epicenter of American poetry than Cid Corman during the 1950s, yet ironically no one now seems more at the periphery.

   Corman already has a place in literary history, as the facilitator for the most important American poets since WWII. For several decades his seminal magazine Origin has been a mouthpiece for new poetry. In 1953 he published Charles Olson's second full volume of verse, In Cold Hell, In Thicket, as Origin 8. A few years later he published Zukofsky's "A" 1-12. He is the literary executor for Lorine Niedecker, and has allowed the printing of his correspondence with her, as well as that between him and Olson.

   But all this seems to place Corman in the past, and disregards that he in fact has a present. Corman is a prodigious poet as well as an editor and essayist. He has written well over a hundred books, many published by himself or other small presses, though he has at times been published by larger publishers such as Black Sparrow and New Directions. He was once a staple of little magazines, but over the last several decades he is seen less and less, though there is more and more being written.

   Corman's situation may be ascribed to several factors, namely the decision to decentralize his position geographically by living in Japan for much of the last forty years, and to disassociate himself from the academics. He claims to have no interest in a teaching post, asserting he is a poet who needs to spend time writing poetry, not explaining it. This is admirable (Zukofsky, Olson, Bunting and others had teaching posts at one time or another, though Niedecker and the English poet W.S. Graham are notable rustics who did not). But in the current, highly politicized atmosphere, it is very difficult to gain a reasonable audience without the support of educational institutions, and this means joining in the milieu of mutual backslapping and promotion.

   As Corman is so central a figure in the epoch of post-war poetry, it seems he should be allowed voice. His perspective is both as insider and outsider, and his poetic career shows the consequences, both good and bad, of isolationism. It is with this in mind that FlashPøint is publishing six new poems given us by Mr. Corman, along with an extensive interview with Corman conducted by Phil Rowland, an astute Englishman who was conveniently located in Japan to conduct the interview. The interview is particularly insightful, as Phil allows Corman's strong character to emerge through discussions of personal experience and the making of poetry. It is an essential document for those wanting to approach Corman's extensive corpus and to assess his poetic intention and methodology.

   It can be difficult to find books by Corman. Anyone wishing to find his work should contact Longhouse Books and Publishers, as they are the main distributors of Corman's work in the world. Their stock, with helpful descriptions, may be viewed at their website, or you may inquire about specific titles directly to the proprietors, Bob and Susan Arnold. They have been devoted to supporting and promoting Corman and other individualistic artists and poets for many years, very much in the Corman spirit .