Cid Corman

1924–2004
Cid CormanLisa Mahoney
Alicia Ostriker viewed Cid Corman as "a poet's poet: a writer neither very profuse—all his books are 'slender' ones—nor very aggressive, but central. To read Corman is to become conscious of one's breathing, how slightly it separates us from things like stones. The pure language, in minimal lines like those of Williams or Creeley, makes one think of other arts in their purity: a clean tone of harpsichord music, or flute, or lute, or Matisse colors, or sumi painting or the Zen archer, shooting well." Ian Hamilton furthered the comparison to Creeley in his comments on Words for Each Other: "He has much of Robert Creeley's wistful, abstract, openheartedness, but is less mannered than Creeley, less anxiously naive."

Corman's characteristic poem, said Hayden Carruth, "has a somewhat Oriental look about it: brief lines, measured by syllabic count, with much interplay of tones and accents, usually turning on a point of acute perception." Not only is this poem "devilishly hard to write," continued Carruth, "I detect in his work a Yankee toughness and existential lucidity that raise it far above trivia." Similarly, Robert J. Griffin tasted "an Oriental flavor" in Corman's Livingdying, a flavor "so strong in some poems that they seem not original works but carefully literal translations. At its worst this flavor may smack of cross-cultural belch, like pseudo-Zen gnomics or Pound pretentiously wagging his pigtail. . . . But that isn't typical. Corman lives in Japan, really lives there, and in most of his short pieces the Eastern note is earned and genuinely resonant."

In his overview of Corman's work, Michael Heller compared the poems of the six or seven years before 1976 to Sun Rock Man: "These poems, no longer quests, are certainly different in tone from the anguished work of Sun Rock Man with its ache of excess being. . . . That the meanings adhere to the language at depth and complexity testifies to the visionary nature of Corman's craft."

Corman extracted highlights from two decades of his magazine to produce The Gist of Origin 1951-71. Included in this chronological collection of poetry, short prose, and reviews are some early works of Creeley, Charles Olson, and Denise Levertov alongside later efforts by William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens. Corman provided his own introduction, which Choice termed "thoughtful, specific, candid, and invaluable as social history." The magazine itself earned praise from Heller: "What I have said of Corman's poetry strikes me as no less true of his editorship of Origin; like the poems, it is an enterprise, a meditation of exile. Its pages testify anew to what makes the American literary scene such a curiosity, such a contradictory set of patterns and influences."

Career

WMEX Radio, Boston, poetry broadcaster, 1949-51; Origin magazine and Origin Press, Ashland, MA, and Kyoto, Japan, editor, beginning 1951. Private teacher, Bari/Matera, Italy, 1956-57, Kyoto Joshidai, Japan, 1958-60, Kyoto, Japan, 1962-66, 1974-79. Sister City Tea House, Boston, owner, operator, teacher of poetry, 1981.

Bibliography

POETRY
  • Subluna,privately printed, 1944.
  • A Thanksgiving Eclogue from Theocritus, Sparrow Press, 1954.
  • The Precisions, Sparrow Press, 1955.
  • (With others) Ferrini and Others, Berlin Gerhardt, 1955.
  • The Responses, Origin Press, 1956.
  • The Marches and Other Poems, Origin Press, 1957.
  • Stances and Distances, Origin Press, 1957.
  • A Table in Provence, Origin Press, 1959.
  • Clocked Stone, Origin Press, 1959.
  • The Descent from Daimonji, Origin Press, 1959.
  • For Sure, Origin Press, 1960.
  • January, Kyoto, 1960.
  • For Instance, Origin Press, 1962.
  • Sun Rock Man, Origin Press, 1962.
  • In No Time, Kyoto, 1963.
  • In Good Time, Origin Press, 1964.
  • All in All, Origin Press, 1964.
  • For Good, Origin Press, 1964.
  • Nonce, Elizabeth Press, 1965.
  • Stead, Elizabeth Press, 1966.
  • For You, Origin Press, 1966.
  • Words for Each Other, Rapp & Carroll, 1967.
  • For Granted, Elizabeth Press, 1967.
  • No Less, Elizabeth Press, 1968.
  • Hearth, Origin Press, 1968.
  • The World as University, Origin Press, 1968.
  • & Without End, Elizabeth Press, 1968.
  • No More, Elizabeth Press, 1969.
  • Plight,Elizabeth Press, 1969.
  • For Keeps, Origin Press, 1970.
  • Livingdying, New Directions, 1970.
  • Night, Elizabeth Press, 1970.
  • Of the Breath Of, Maya, 1970.
  • For Now, Origin Press, 1971.
  • Cicadas, Slow Loris Press, 1971.
  • Out and Out, Elizabeth Press, 1972.
  • Be Quest, Elizabeth Press, 1972.
  • A Language without Words, Byways 6, 1972.
  • Poems: Thanks to Zuckerkandl, Sceptre Press, 1973.
  • Three Poems, Sceptre Press, 1973.
  • So Far, Elizabeth Press, 1973.
  • Breathings, Mushinsha, 1973.
  • All in All, Elizabeth Press, 1974.
  • O/I, Elizabeth Press, 1974.
  • Yet, Elizabeth Press, 1974.
  • RSVP, Sceptre Press, 1974.
  • For Dear Life, Black Sparrow Press, 1975.
  • Unless, Serendipity, 1975.
  • Once and for All: Poems for William Bronk, Elizabeth Press, 1975.
  • Not Now, Moschatel Press, 1975.
  • For the Asking, Black Sparrow Press, 1976.
  • Any How, Kisetsusha, 1976.
  • Leda and the Swan, Emmanuel Hozguard (Paris), 1976.
  • 's, Elizabeth Press, 1976.
  • Be Longings, Origin Press, 1977.
  • Gratis, Origin Press, 1977.
  • Antics, Origin Press, 1977.
  • Of Course, Origin Press, 1978.
  • So, Origin Press, 1978.
  • Auspices, Pentagram, 1978.
  • At Their Word, Black Sparrow Press, 1978.
  • In the Event, Theodore Press, 1979.
  • Tabernacle, Origin Press, 1980.
  • Manna, Toothpaste Press, 1981.
  • Identities, Salt-Works Press, 1981.
  • At Least (2), Corycian Press, 1982.
  • Tu, Toothpaste Press, 1983.
  • Aegis: Selected Poems, 1970-1980, Station Hill Press, 1983.
  • In Particular: Poems, New and Selected, Cormorant, 1986.
  • Root Song, Potes and Poets Press, 1986.
  • And the Word, Coffee House Press, 1987.
  • Of,two volumes, Lapis Press, 1990.
  • No News, Saru, 1992.
  • How Now: Poems, Cityful Press (Boulder, CO), 1995.
  • (With Beauford Delaney) Tributary, Edgewise Press (New York, NY), 1996.
  • (Editor) The Granite Pail: The Selected Poems of Lorine Niedecker, Gnomon (Frankfort, KY), 1996.
  • Tributary: Poems, edited by Philippe Briet, Edgewise Press, (New York, NY), 1999.
  • Where to Begin: Selected Letters of Cid Corman and Mike Doyle, 1967-1970, edited by Kegan Doyle, Ekstasis Editions (Victoria, BC), 2000.
  • The Despairs, Cedar Hill Publications (Mena, AR), 2001.
  • Just for Now: Poems, Mountains and Rivers Press (Eugene, OR), 2001.
  • For Crying Out Loud, Mountain and Rivers Press (Eugene, OR), 2002.
TRANSLATION
  • Matsuo Basho, Cool Melon, Origin Press, 1959.
  • (Adaptations of well-known Japanese poems) Cool Gong, Origin Press, 1959.
  • (With Kamaike Susumu) Shimpei Kusano, Selected Frogs, Origin Press, 1963.
  • Basho, Back Roads to Far Towns, Mushinsha (Tokyo), 1967.
  • (With Kamaike) Shimpei, Frogs and Others: Poems, Mushinsha, 1968 , Grossman, 1969.
  • Francis Ponge, Things, Grossman, 1971.
  • Rene Char, Leaves of Hypnos, Grossman, 1973.
  • Philippe Jaccottet, Breathings, Grossman, 1974.
  • (With William Alexander and Richard Burns) Roberto Sanesi: A Selection, Grosseteste, 1975.
  • Peerless Mirror (from The Manyoshu), Firefly Press, 1981.
  • (With Kamaike) Shimpei, Asking Myself/Answering Myself, New Directions, 1984.
  • Basho and others, One Man's Moon, Gnomon Press, 1984.
  • (With Takashi Kojiba and Will Petersen ) Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Hell Screen, Cogwheels, and a Fools' Life, Eridanos Press, 1988.
  • Born of a Dream: Fifty Haiku by Basho, Buson, Taigi, Issa, Shiki, Gnomon Press, 1989.
  • Basho, Little Enough: Forty-Nine Haiku, Gnomon Press, 1991.
  • Santoka, Walking into the Wind, Cadmus Editions, 1994.
  • (With others) Back Roads to Far Towns: Basho's Oku-no-hosomichi, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1996.
OTHER
  • At: Bottom, Caterpillar, 1966.
  • (Editor) Franco Beltrametti, Face to Face, GR/EW Books, 1973.
  • (Editor and author of introduction) The Gist of Origin 1951-71: An Anthology, Grossman, 1975.
  • William Bronk: An Essay, Truck Press, 1976.
  • The Act of Poetry and Two Other Essays, Black Sparrow Press, 1976.
  • Word for Word: Essays on the Art of Language, Black Sparrow Press, 1977.
  • At Their Word: Essays on the Art of Language, Black Sparrow Press, 1978.
  • Projectile, Percussive, Prospective: The Making of a Voice, Aquila, 1982.
  • (Editor) The Granite Pail: The Selected Poems of Lorine Niedecker, North Point Press, 1985.
  • Where Were We Now: Essays and Postscriptum, Broken Moon, 1991.
Contributor to Four Winds, Contact, Poetry, New Mexico Quarterly, and other publications.

Further Reading

BOOKS
  • Allen, Donald M., editor, The New American Poetry,Grove, 1960.
  • Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series,Volume 2, Gale, 1985, pp. 129-147.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism,Volume 9, Gale, 1978, pp. 169-171.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, Gale, 1980, pp. 136-142.
  • Taggart, John, A Bibliography of Works by Cid Corman, Elizabeth Press, 1975.
  • Dunne, Gregory, Quiet Accomplishment, Remembering Cid Corman, Ekstasis Editions, 2014.
PERIODICALS
  • Books and Bookmen,May, 1968.
  • Choice,November, 1975; December, 1975, p. 1306.
  • Library Journal,March 1, 1976, p. 721; February 1, 1984, p. 183.
  • Madrona,number 3, December, 1975.
  • Nation, July 20, 1970, p. 53.
  • New York Times Book Review,May 16, 1976, p. 12; January 26, 1986, p. 25.
  • Observer,February 11, 1968.
  • Parnassus: Poetry in Review,spring-summer, 1976, pp. 98-108.
  • Partisan Review,spring, 1972, p. 271.
  • Washington Post Book World,July 6, 1986, p. 8.
  • World Literature Today, winter, 1985, p. 59.
  • Kyoto Journal, issue #31, March 1996 (link).

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

BOOKS
  • Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 193: American Poets since World War II, Sixth Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
PERIODICALS
  • Los Angeles Times, March 18, 2004, p. B12.
  • New York Times, March 16, 2004, p. C19.
  • Times (London, England), March 29, 2004, p. 26.

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LIFE SPAN 1924–2004

Cid Corman

Biography

Alicia Ostriker viewed Cid Corman as "a poet's poet: a writer neither very profuse—all his books are 'slender' ones—nor very aggressive, but central. To read Corman is to become conscious of one's breathing, how slightly it separates us from things like stones. The pure language, in minimal lines like those of Williams or Creeley, makes one think of other arts in their purity: a clean tone of harpsichord music, or flute, or . . .

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