Cid Corman Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Cid Corman’s oeuvre is immense. In addition to his many volumes of poetry, he published a large number of translations from French, German, Italian, and Japanese. These not only have appeared as separate volumes, including the work of such diverse writers as Matsuo Bash, Shimpei Kusano, René Char, Francis Ponge, and Philippe Jaccottet, but also lie scattered throughout his books and magazine publications. These latter include a virtual pantheon of major writers, among them Eugenio Montale, Mario Luzi, René Daumal, and Paul Celan, as well as many little-known European and Asian writers.

Corman was equally prolific as an essayist and commentator on contemporary letters. Some of his essays have been collected in Word for Word: Essays on the Art of Language (1977-1978) and Where Were We Now: Essays and Postscriptum (1991). Corman also maintained an enormous literary and cultural correspondence with other writers and intellectuals.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Among poets of his generation, no figure stood more at the center of both poetic activity and influence than Cid Corman. As poet, translator, and one of contemporary letters’ most important editors, Corman was generator, clearinghouse, arbitrator, and gadfly, presiding over one of the most fertile and creative periods of American poetry. Through his own poetry and through his editorship of Origin magazine, Corman was a central reference point in the poetic battleground of the postwar years. Origin, which published William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, and Robert Duncan, performed for its time what T. S. Eliot’s Criterion, The Dial, and The Literary Review performed for theirs as major forums for modern writing.

Both Corman’s poetry and his translations, still in need of major critical attention, have been of great importance to younger writers. The essential lines of Corman’s poetic style were established in his earliest books, and its simplicity of structure and depth of realization marked a maturity of stance that younger poets, in the ongoing literary ferment, have turned to as a kind of spiritual and intellectual benchmark. This early maturity, based on Corman’s desire for a poetry that would not engage in the more self-indulgent (hence more popular) styles of writing of its time, claimed for poetry a philosophical sense of anonymity, a nonaggressive quality that seemed, given Corman’s unique position, to be an eye in the center of the literary storm. This quality, evident in all Corman’s work, gives his voice a peculiarly important place among his contemporaries, for its tact and quiet come not out of diffidence but out of a difficult assuredness not often found in American literary life. Corman won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in 1975 for O/1 and the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1989.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Carlson, Michael. “Cid Corman: Poet Who Was Behind the Literary Magazine Origin.” The Guardian, April 15, 2004, p. 27. This obituary remembers him primarily for his editorial role, but it also discusses his influence in the poetry world and his poetry.

Corman, Cid. “Interview with Cid Corman.” Interview by Gregory Dunne. American Poetry Review 29, no. 4 (July/August, 2000): 23-28. Provides useful insights into Corman’s long career, affinities with other poets, his use of the syllabic line, and his many years living in Japan.

Evans, George. “A Selection from the Correspondence: Charles Olson and Cid Corman, 1950.” Origin 5, no. 1 (1983): 78-106. Evans presents the first 14 of 175 letters between Corman and Charles Olson. In 1950, Corman was attempting to launch a new poetry magazine. He wrote to Olson to persuade him to take on the position of contributing editor. Interesting to all students of the Objectivist movement.

Heller, Michael. Conviction’s Net of Branches: Essays on the Objectivist Poets and Poetry. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985. Corman was a major figure in the Objectivist poetry movement. These essays shed light on the nature and convictions of the Objectivists. This study is suitable for advanced undergraduate and graduate poetry students....

(The entire section is 419 words.)