Corman, Sidney 1924-2004 (Cid Corman)

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CORMAN, Sidney 1924-2004
(Cid Corman)


See index for CA sketch: Born June 29, 1924, in Roxbury, MA; died March 12, 2004, in Kyoto, Japan. Editor, translator, publisher, and author. A prolific poet in his own right, Corman was well known for helping other poets get their works published through his Origin Press and was a highly influential figure among the Beat and Black Mountain poets. Ineligible for military service because of his health, he attended Tufts College (now University) during World War II, completing a B.A. in 1945 and continuing on to graduate study at the University of Michigan, where he won the Hopwood Prize for poetry in 1947, and University of North Carolina. Later, in the mid-1950s, he also attended the Sorbonne. Leaving university in 1947, Corman embarked on a across America and writing poetry, years before Jack Kerouac made such adventures famous in his own writings. Settling for a time in Boston in 1948, he started a radio program on WMEX in which the works of such writers as Archibald MacLeish and Stephen Spender were read without commercial interruption. Believing radio was an ideal medium for poetry, Corman thus had a powerful influence on what would become performance poetry in later years. At the same time, Corman prolifically penned poetry, hundreds of his verses being published in small magazines. Despite this success, Corman seemed even more interested in bringing the poems of others to the public light. He thus founded the poetry magazine Origin and Origin Press in 1951, featuring the works of such now-renowned figures as Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov. Enamored by the simple power of Japanese poetry, Corman moved to Kyoto, where he found work as a private teacher, married a Japanese woman, continued his work with Origin Press, and founded C.C.'s, a coffee and dessert shop that also provided a venue for poetry readings. In the 1950s, Corman also began having his poetry collections published on a yearly basis, mostly through Origin Press, with early collections including A Thanksgiving Eclogue from Theocritus (1954), A Table in Provence (1959), For Instance (1962), and In Good Time (1964). Fluent in Japanese, Corman began translating the works of such poets as Matsuo Basho and Shimpei Kusano. His own poems have, in fact, been likened to those of the Japanese masters, with their simple construction lulling readers into startling revelations and imagery. Financial problems led Corman to return to Boston in 1970, but in the early 1980s he returned to Japan, where he would remain the rest of his life. While continuing to publish poetry collections and translations, Corman wrote so much that, at the time of his death, some eighty thousand poems remained unpublished. One of his most ambitious works is called Of, a multi-volume series with the first two books being published in 1990. By 2004, five volumes had been published, and a sixth is to appear posthumously. Among his many, many other collections, which he published under the name Cid Corman, are Stead (1966), Of the Breath Of (1970), So Far (1973), For the Asking (1976), Identities (1981), And the Word (1987), How Now: Poems (1995), and For Crying Out Loud (2002); he also edited books by such authors as Franco Beltrametti and Lorine Niedecker, and published essay collections, such as At Their Word: Essays on the Art of Language (1978). Suffering a heart attack in Kyoto, Corman fell into a coma in 2004 and soon passed away.



Contemporary Poets, seventh 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.


Los Angeles Times, March 18, 2004, p. B12.

New York Times, March 16, 2004, p. C19.

Times (London, England), March 29, 2004, p. 26.