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Untitled -- Cid Corman

(Poem #348) Untitled

  in the

-- Cid Corman
As Thomas has noted previously, it's hard to find a good English haiku (that
is, a haiku specifically written in Engilsh, as opposed to translations of
Japanese haiku, of which many excellent examples exist)[1]. Corman, though,
has written a number of poems that, while not haiku, have been influenced by
the form.

[1] does a good job of explaining

I've always liked minimalist poetry (when it works, of course), and today's
poem is no exception. The way every word has been made to count is
fascinating - such poems look deceptively easy to write, but they're far
more structured and carefully crafted than it would appear. One of the main
differences between poetry and prose is this economy of words, the need to
choose every one carefuly because it has to carry, besides the surface
meaning, several layers of imagery and connotation[2]. And this is a
particularly stringent requirement when writing minimalist poems, where
there aren't that many words in the first place. In today's piece, for
example, the imagery evoked by the conjunction of 'mountain' and 'stars' is
not just beautiful but impressive in the way it's conveyed in just two
words. Note, also, the effective use of the line break - free verse has been
accused of being 'prose with interesting line breaks', but the breaks are
far from arbitrary; they're just as carefully chosen a part of a poem as
the punctuation is.

[2] see also poem #270 for
more on the poetry/prose distinction

The other notable thing about today's poem[3] is, of course, the dependence
on the last line[4]. 'Mountain', 'stars' and 'eyes in the open' do not
between them form a poem - they're just a disconnected set of fragmentary
images (albeit nice ones). The final 'do' works on several levels - not only
is it a neat piece of wordplay, it also ties the poem together, resolving
the string of fragments into a connected whole. All in all, quite an
achievement for a two letter word.

[3] this is about the time i really wish it had a title :)
[4] see poem #345 for a longer
treatment of this technique

Biography and Assessment:

Cid Corman is author of more than eighty collections of poems, essays, and
translations. He began publishing Origin in 1951, featuring many of the
finest young poets of the day, and it continues from Japan, where he has
lived since the late Fifties. Of himself, he writes, "Harvesting the sun /
and earth and sky - no need to / gild the dragonfly."
        -- [broken link]

"Nobody knows how to do so much with so few words as Corman. And
Nothing/Doing is rich with his austerities, poems full of wisdom and
tenderness and absurdities. It's a book that seems to have come from
every time in the man's life, as if all his times were in his custody
at once. It feels to me like the summa poetica of Corman's work, where
he stands up to be counted. And shows the power and grace of what he
does so well." --Robert Kelly

Corman is one of modernism's enduring masters, a poet of prodigious
talent and production whose work, both as poet and publisher, is
intertwined with the Objectivists Louis Zukofsky nd George Oppen, as
well as the Black Mountain poets Robert Creeley and Charles Olson.
Among such modern giants, Corman's verse is perhaps the most refined,
refusing the temptation of "effect" for the tactile ink of line and
"touch." Nothing/Doing presents a vital poetry of zen koan and
cognitive conundrum, but also one of uncompromising wisdom, where
Corman can definitively declare: "There's only/one poem:/this is it."

        -- [broken link]


Here's something interesting by the man himself:

A set of Cid Corman links (some broken) can be found at
[broken link]

And for the discovery of Corman I must thank Seamus Cooney,
[broken link]

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