Monday, May 5, 2008

Paul Blackburn, Re-visited

Paul Blackburn about to lift rock... mid-1960s, probably in vicinity of Aspen, Colorado.

Link to Jerry Rothenberg and more on Paul Blackburn...

With thanks to University of Pennsylvania Professor Al Filreis...

Nearly half a century after Paul Blackburn read these lines [see below] aloud in one of our kitchen colloquies, the lines are fresh as ever. I can still hear his voice. And, certainly, Paul was an influence on the work I was doing then, Kissing the Dancer, Cornell Univ. Press, 1964, and now, God is in the Cracks, Black Moss Press, 2006.

As for generosity of spirit, Paul was the first poet I met who seemed to have that quality and, 50 years later, he’s still pretty much at the top of the list. Yeah, and to Paul’s name I’d add perhaps two or three others.

Paul Blackburn’s 1954 “statement” of poetics was published in The Parallel Voyages, Sun-Gemini Press, 1987.
Please see The Parallel Voyages for correct formatting.

“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.
Techniques of speech rhythms,
sometimes very intense,
sometimes developed slowly, as
one would have
conversation with a friend.

"Personally, I affirm two things:
the possibility of warmth & contact
in the human relationship :
as juxtaposed against the materialistic pig of a technological world,
where relationships are only ‘useful’ i.e., exploited, either
psychologically or materially.

"...the possibility of s o n g
within that world: which is like saying ‘yes’ to sunlight.

"On the matter of song: I believe there must be a return toward the
musical structure of poetry, just as there must be, for certain people at
least, a return to warmth within a relationship.

"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
(materially 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.

"To give
and man enough to receive, LOVE,
when he finds it offered.

"To take the sun and the goods of the earth, while it lasts.
and to
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

$1 more."


[See preceding April 28 post for more on Paul Blackburn].

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