Tuesday, April 24, 2012


So yesterday, I was treated to two hours of examining 30 copies of Cid Corman's Origin. These are some thoughts (off the cuff). Some details might be a little off.

Origin magazine was started in around 1950 by Cid Corman who at that time lived in the Boston area. As the magazine came to fruition, there were a series of letters between Corman and Charles Olson as to what a 'good' magazine should be composed of. These are now published in Letters for Origin. Olson was Corman's first (and for a time, nearly sole) contributor. The first issue of Origin is nothing less than magical. It included (the first publication of?) Olson's opus Maximus - and having read Maximus twice, it appears to me to be an early draft (not the final). Origin was for sale for 3$ but this was optional. The first copies were printed by Divers (Creeley's press) in Mallorca, Spain. The early editions are ALL  letter 

As I read through these issues, I do feel forced to recognize the absence of women. However, I refuse to act with dismissal or anger. My reaction is one (more) of distant curiosity. I have a complex relationship with feminism anyway - as I feel like it pretty systematically discounts disability. And poetry isn't television. The gender problem is much more complicated. I want to just look at what happened and figure out why. To say Black Mountain men just hated women is too much of a simplification to me. 

Origin was very, what shall we say, male-oriented. Of the many issues I looked though women included were Denise Levertov, Lorine Niedecker (most people know that Cid was fixated on her), Barabra Moroff, Carol Berge, Jane Robinett, and, interestingly, Daphne Marlett - a feminist Canadian poet. Corman did a number of issues dedicated to one poet- and he did an issue on her - also did issues on Francis Ponge, Lorine Neidecker, Frank Samperi, and others. 

O and one more woman! How could forget HORRAH PORNOFF. This is a 'real person' -named Clayton Eshleman. In an essay in Attack of the Difficult Poems, Charles Bernstein writes, "HP poems inspired by a negative reaction to a review by Marjorie Perloff that Eshleman felt had challenged him to create works, with a female persona, of 'horror and pornography.....for Eshleman, the persona allowed him to create poems "free to be AND not to be me...(poems that were) an expression of the extent to which the feminine aspects of my personality had fought over the years for their rightful place in my work.' After finishing the series of poems, Eshleman took out a post office box and sent poems out in Pornoff's name, with the poems soon appearing in Fag Rag, Momentum....4th series of Origin. (did Corman know?) Eshleman notes that he kept up a few correspondences for his made-up poet, even fending off people who wanted to date her."

Corman did publish largely men - but I do know that he was utterly fixated on LN's work and is partly responsible for bringing her work to the surface. 

I haven't yet read all of Olson's work - but I don't find Maximus overwhelmingly sexist. Olson, famously,  did not want women in his class. However, in Michael Davidson's "Guys Like Us - Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetry"  he notes, "the recently published letters between Olson and Frances Boldereff suggest that the re was a third interlocutor in the production of "projective verse" who may have exerted as much influence on the manifesto as Creeley.... The letters between the two figures, written from the late 1940's to the 1960's, testify to an intense intellectual and sexual involvement, especially during the period of Olson's apprenticeship as a poet." (Olson "became" a poet relatively late after life as a Melville critic, postman, etc). Davidson argues, "Projective Verse" appears in an early draft among the letters, and it seems clear that Bolderoff contributed certain ideas about language as action to the essay. The absence of any reference to this powerful woman intellectual can, of cousre, be explained (as Sharon Thesen does in her editorial introduction to the letters) by Olson's common law marriage to Constance Olson during the 1950's. But this occlusion of Boldereff's influence is also informed by Olson's phallic theory of literary inheritance that can admit the authority off Williams, Pound, Creeley, Dahlberg, and others, but not of strong women."

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