Nationality: American. Born: Sidney Corman, Boston, Massachusetts, 29 June 1924. Education: Boston Latin School; Tufts College, Medford, Massachusetts, A.B. 1945 (Phi Beta Kappa); University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Hopwood award, 1947), 1946–47; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1947; Sorbonne, Paris (Fulbright Fellow), 1954–55. Family: Married Shizumi Konishi in 1965. Career: Poetry broadcaster, WMEX, Boston, 1949–51; teacher in Italy, 1956–67, and at Kyoto Joshidai, Japan, 1958–60, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, 1962–64, and Doshisha University, Kyoto, 1965–66. Since 1951 editor, Origin magazine and Origin Press, Ashland, Massachusetts, and Kyoto. Owner, Cid Corman's Dessert Shop, Kyoto, 1974–79, and Sister City Tea Shop, Boston, since 1981. Awards: Chapelbrook Foundation grant, 1967–69; Co-ordinating Council of Little Magazines grant, 1970, 1978; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1974; Lenore Marshall memorial prize, 1975. Address: c/o Coffee House Press, Box 10870, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55440, U.S.A.
subluna (juvenilia). Privately printed, 1945.
Night Claims (song), music by Hugo Calderón. New York, Shirmer, 1950.
A Thanksgiving Eclogue from Theocritus. New York, Sparrow Press, 1954.
Ferrini and Others, with others. Berlin, Gerhardt, 1955.
The Precisions. New York, Sparrow Press, 1955.
The Responses. Ashland, Massachusetts, Origin Press, 1956.
Stances and Distances. Ashland, Massachusetts, Origin Press, 1957.
The Marches. Ashland, Massachusetts, Origin Press, 1957.
Clocked Stone. Ashland, Massachusetts, Origin Press, 1959.
A Table in Provence. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1959.
The Descent from Daimonji. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1959.
For Sure. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1960.
Sun Rock Man. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1962; New York, New Directions, 1970.
For Instance. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1962.
In No Time. Privately printed, 1963.
In Good Time. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1964.
For Good. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1964.
All in All. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1964.
Nonce. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1965.
For You. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1966.
Stead. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1966.
For Granted. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1967.
Words for Each Other. London, Rapp and Carroll, 1967.
& without End. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, and London Villiers, 1968.
No Less. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1968.
Hearth. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1968.
The World as University. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1968.
No More. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1969.
Plight. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1969.
Nigh. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1970.
Livingdying. New York, New Directions, 1970.
Of the Breath of. Berkeley, California, Maya, 1970.
For Keeps. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1970.
For Now. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1971.
Cicadas. Amherst, New York, Slow Loris Press, 1971.
Out and Out. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1972.
Be Quest. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1972.
A Language without Words. Saffron Walden, Essex, Byways, 1973.
So Far. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1973.
Poems: Thanks to Zuckerkandl. Rushden, Northamptonshire, Sceptre Press, 1973.
Breathings. Tokyo, Mushinsha, 1973.
Three Poems. Rushden, Northamptonshire, Sceptre Press, 1973.
Yet. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1974.
RSVP. Knotting, Bedfordshire, Sceptre Press, 1974.
O/I. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1974.
For Dear Life. Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press, 1975.
Once and for All: Poems for William Bronk. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1975.
Not Now. N.p., Moschatel Press, 1975.
Unless. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1975.
'S. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1976.
For the Asking. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1976.
Any How. Nagoya, Kisetsusha, 1976.
Leda and the Swan. Paris, Hocguard, 1976.
Be Longings. Boston, Origin Press, 1977.
Antics. Boston, Origin Press, 1977.
Gratis. Boston, Origin Press, 1977.
Auspices. Milwaukee, Pentagram Press, 1978.
Of Course. Boston, Origin Press, 1978.
So. Boston, Origin Press, 1978.
At Their Word. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1978.
In the Event. Bangor, Maine, Theodore Press, 1979.
Tabernacle. Boston, Origin Press, 1980.
Manna. West Branch, Iowa, Toothpaste Press, 1981.
At Least (2). Iowa City, Corycian Press, 1981.
Identities. Vineyard, Massachusetts, Salt-Works Press, 1981.
Tu. West Branch, Iowa, Toothpaste Press, 1983.
Aegis: Selected Poems 1970–1980. Barrytown, New York, Station Hill Press, 1984.
In Particular: Poems, New and Selected. Dunvegan, Ontario, Cormorant, 1986.
Root Song. Elmwood, Connecticut, Potes and Poets Press, 1986.
And the Word. Minneapolis, Coffee House Press, 1987.
Tel 2 let. Charleston, Illinois, Tel-let, 1988.
Yea. Los Angeles, Lapis, 1989.
Of. Venice, California, Lapis, 1990.
All Yours. New York, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art, 1991.
Nothing to Nothing. Charleston, Illinois, Tel-let, 1991.
The Revolt of the Poet. Jamaica, Vermont, Bull Thistle Pres, 1995.
How Now: Poems. Boulder, Colorad, Cityful Press, 1995.
Marginalia. Plymouth, Shearsman Books, 1996.
No Shit. Abiko, Chiba, Japan, Abiko Literary Press, 1996.
Pith Water. Charleston, Illinois, Tel-let, 1997.
God or Buddha. Green River, Vermont, Longhouse, 1998.
You Don't Say. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lilliput Review, 1998.
Going Going. Berkeley, California, Tangram, 1999.
Tributary: Poems. New York, Edgewise Press, 1999.
Nothing Doing. New York, New Directions, 1999.
Nothing at All. Brooklyn, New York, MEB/PNY, 1999.
At: Bottom. Bloomington, Indiana, Caterpillar, 1966.
William Bronk: An Essay. Carrboro, North Carolina, Truck Press, 1976.
The Act of Poetry and Two Other Essays. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1976.
Word for Word: [At Their Word:] Essays on the Art of Language. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 2 vols., 1977–78.
Projectile, Percussive, Prospective: The Making of a Voice. Portree, Isle of Skye, Aquila, 1982.
Where Were We Now: Essays & Postscriptum. Seattle, Broken Moon Press, 1991.
The Practice of Poetry: Reconsiderations of Louis Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry. Vermont, Longhouse-Origin, 1998.
Editor, The Gist of "Origin": An Anthology. New York, Grossman, 1975.
Editor, The Granite Pail: The Selected Poems of Lorine Niedecker. Berkeley, California, North Point Press, 1985.
Translator, Cool Melon, by Bashõ. Ashland, Massachusetts, Origin Press, 1959.
Translator, Cool Gong. Ashland, Massachusetts, Origin Press, 1959.
Translator, with Susumu Kamaike, Selected Frogs, by Shimpei Kusano. Kyoto, Origin Press, 1963.
Translator, Back Roads to Far Towns, by Bashõ. Tokyo, Mushinsha, 1967; New York, Grossman, 1971.
Translator, with Susumu Kamaike, Frogs and Others: Poems, by Shimpei Kusano. Tokyo, Mushinsha, 1968; New York, Grossman, 1969.
Translator, Things, by Francis Ponge. Tokyo, Mushinsha, and New York, Grossman, 1971.
Translator, Leaves of Hypnos, by René Char. Tokyo, Mushinsha, and New York, Grossman, 1973.
Translator, Breathings, by Philippe Jaccottet. New York, Grossman, 1974.
Translator, with William Alexander and Richard Burns, Roberto Sanesi: A Selection. Pensnett, Staffordshire, Grosseteste, 1975.
Translator, Peerless Mirror: Twenty Tanka from the Manyoshu. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Firefly Press, 1981.
Translator, with Susumu Kamaike, Asking Myself/Answering Myself, by Shimpei Kusano. New York, New Directions, 1984.
Translator, One Man's Moon (version of haiku). Frankfort, Kentucky, Gnomon Press, 1984.
Translator, with Takashi Kojiba and Will Petersen, Hell Screen Cogwheels, and a Fool's Life, by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Hygiene, California, Eridanos Press, 1988.
Translator, Born of a Dream: 50 Haiku. Frankfort, Kentucky, Gnomon Press, 1988.
Translator, Little Enough: 49 Haiku. Frankfort, Kentucky, Gnomon Press, 1991.
Translator, Walking into the Wind, by Santoka. N.p., Cadmus Editions, 1994.
Translator, with others, Back Roads to Far Towns: Basho's Oku-nohosomichi. Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco Press, 1996.*
Manuscript Collections: University of Texas, Austin; Kent State University, Ohio; Indiana University, Bloomington; New York University; State University of New York, Buffalo.
Critical Studies: "Cid Corman Issue" of Madrona (Seattle), December 1975; "A Selection from the Correspondence: Charles Olson and Cid Corman, 1950" edited by George Evans, in Origin (Orono, Maine), 1, fall 1983; 'Between Your House and Mine': The Letters of Loraine Niedecker to Cid Corman, 1960–1970 (dissertation) by Lisa Pater Faranda, n.p., 1984; "Getting the Secret Out of Cid Corman" by Gregory Dunne, in Kyoto Journal, 31, 1996.
Cid Corman comments:
My work has developed from the pioneer poetry of Pound-Williams-Stevens, but much also from contact with French poetry. No forms, but a strict sense of the sounded meaning of words, pauses, verses, etc., and the felt thought that poetry is. Brevity, immediacy, clarity. A poetry that makes the role of the critic pointless, needless. The ideal, always, to join that most human society of poets whose work is published under the title of ANON.
Poetry calls for anonymity. It appeals, in short, to the each in all and the all in each. Its particularity must become yours. Autobiography is implicit in anyone's work and may be taken for granted, but what has been realized and so set out as to be shared loses itself in the self that is found extended without end in song.
As the author has elsewhere put it: "If I have nothing to offer you in the face of death—in its stead—the ache behind every ache, the instant man knows, I have no claim as poet. My song must sing into you a little moment, stay in you what presence can muster—of sense more than meaning, of love more than sense, of giving the life given one with the same fullness that brought each forth, each to each from each, nothing left but the life that is going on."* * *
Cid Corman's poems are tight, reticent, and resonant. He demonstrates how evocative the minimal registration of specifics can be, and he has combined with this his own lifelong concern for the sound of poetry, syllable by syllable. (Louis Zukofsky is for him, as for Robert Creeley, a measure of such possibilities.) The result, both in the longer more discursive poems of Sun Rock Man or & without End and in the short haiku-like poems of such books as Nonce, Stead, and Nigh, is a poetry of considerable grace and strength.
Corman's early poems seem to cry out for the compression of his later style. "First Farm North" from The Precisions begins with the line "I stood above at the bathroom window" and goes on, in leisurely anecdotal style, to evoke a mood by careful accumulation of detail, ending with
The mirror was thawed into the scene
and the brightness of the morning
pressed a cool handful of water
into my eyes and my pulse raced song.
While retaining a sense of measure in these lines, Corman is already free of iambic regularity, but the poem, though charming, is diffuse. Other poems feature a 1950s elegance ("Leaves discuss the wind") consorting somewhat uneasily with touches of what has come to seem Corman's characteristic sensibility ("It takes all my time, and my father's,/to let life go").
Between such early work and the development seen in the 1962 Sun Rock Man, there intervenes a Japanese influence and the translations from Bashõ and others published in Cool Gong and Cool Melon. A gain in expressive means—shorter lines, barer statement, more fluid syntax—is seen throughout Sun Rock Man. In "The Gift" Corman writes,
First night in a
strange town to
be going home
strange girl saying
goodnight to me
how night is
when she says so
The line breaks are like Creeley's; the syntax, with its dangling participles and the canny deployment that gets the clinching phrase at the end, owes something to William Carlos Williams ("As the cat/climbed over &" in "Poem"); and the syllabic grid (4=3-4, 3=4-4, 3=4-4) suggests the style of Marianne Moore. But in its feelings the poem is wholly Corman's. And the entire book, its sum exceeding its parts as a tribute to a place and people—the Italian town where the poet spent a year teaching English—marks the emergence of Corman's mature voice.
In For Instance, also published in 1962, the reader finds more specific oriental influences in content, tone, and technique. "Number 7" reads,
odor of cherry tolling
The juxtaposed verbless phrases evoke a mood of contemplative harmony with natural surroundings, a mood often associated with Japanese poetry. Though a haiku translation, Corman's poem is nevertheless Western in its reliance on metaphor, assonance, and connotative language.
Corman's later work has continued along the lines of Sun Rock Man and For Instance. It cannot be denied that his emotional range is narrow and that his tone can verge on too easy a plangency, too self-indulgent an acquiescence in the drift toward dissolution. For instance, "The Mystery," a poem about swallows from the 1964 collection In Good Time, ends with "How each/pursued//each,/pursued/by a green sky/as the sun settles,//desperate/to let themselves/go, O/against night." It has been suggested that the melodramatic "desperate" and the moaning "o" sounds produce too facile a pathos and distract attention from the things seen to the emoting observer. Contrast the restraint of a successful poem on roughly the same thing:
sweep the fallen
away. I know,
I know. Weight of
Here the talking voice is never swamped, and the tone plays against and makes more convincing the feelings that weigh on the speaker. Even more fully impersonal is the following, taken from Nonce:
The leaf that moved with the wind
with the stream.
The energy is released by so simple a means as a change in tense. And the emotional effect is complex—transience is recognized, as is cyclical renewal—and all is made to inhere in the thing seen. When he writes like this, and he does it often enough for every book to be rewarding, Corman's is a voice that earns our careful attention.
There is no mistake that Corman's verse continues to be associated with Japanese poetry. In his 1987 collection And the Word he retains metrical integrity and, in his best moments, operates without ulterior motives:
Like a child again
holding a round stone
in my hand until
the warmth of my hand
warms the stone and I
Simplicity, stasis and acute metaphorical renderings are the guiding principles of Corman's extraordinary writing.
—Seamus Cooney and