Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Clayton Eshleman on Paul Blackburn

The power of Ron Silliman's blog. As explained below, Clayton Eshleman wrote to me regarding my post about Paul Blackburn that Ron Silliman linked to. Well, that’s a fine story. It’s not about me, after all. I attach Clayton’s note, and his essay, which I find of use. Check out the note (#4), where Clayton explains how a Blackburn poem managed to cancel funding for Sulfur. Sulfur along with Leland Hickman’s Temblor were, for differing reasons, the two most important poetry pubs of the era. Sez I.

Nota Bene: I did not initially get the formatting right for the poem quoted here—I was rushed to get on the Thanksgiving road-- but I believe the PRE html tag that I have inserted gets it close. here. The formatting was important to the poet.

dear A.H. Bramhall, I noticed your remarks about the Collected Blackburn on your blog via the Silliman notice. Back in the late 80s I wrote an introductory essay to a collection of Paul's unpublished poems I found in the PB archive at UCSD with a little Tucson press, SUN/gemini. I think the book was hardly distributed and to my knowledge it was never reviewed. It is called Parallel Voyages. I am going to reprint this essay in a new collection of poetry and prose that Black Widow Press will publish in 2011 or 2012. Would you be interested in looking at it for possible blog publication?

Best regards, Clayton Eshleman

PAUL BLACKBURN’S PARALLEL VOYAGES

The quintessential Paul Blackburn poem (“Affinities II” would be a good example) is visually speaking more like a sketch (Franz Kline was his favorite painter) than a work in oil. Lines are brisk, deft strokes resulting in mobile half-stanzas, particle-stanzas, slightly assymetrical, that tilt the poem on. Whether in Barcelona or in the New York City 23rd Street “Bakery,” the Blackburn persona is generally off-stage, activated by desire, an observer scoring nodes which the reader can connect to constellate relationship-oriented patterns. The tendency is to seek out value, or as Blackburn himself puts it in one poem included in The Parallel Voyages,[1] “the whole and the flowing,” but he is also fascinated by the extent to which humankind is derailed, and redesigned, by a ritualistic emotional and material interface. The content of this quintessential poem is spare, idiomatically erudite, and only marginally introspective. It frames itself as it tracks its own material, resulting in a page design that is quite mobile, with weighted, balanced lines and word clumps:

     Affinities II

Why do gulls like
to sit in the sea
only when there are waves, when there
is ground s well?

And never will
when it is smooth?
Must be they take pleasure from
the motion of wave
as I do,
the lift and ride and rise, the swing
down the trough, climbing
effortlessly
the next crest.

Best to sit in the sun afterward, tho,
on rock,
watching the rollers break, spill-
slide up the beach,
letting spray fall back its jet
upon wet rocks, brown legs, the next
against the sun.
We never learn
to distrust such motion, Carroll.

I recall your long legs
tumbling in such a sea
at Bañalbufar that summer,
white
body reddening
taking its first day’s sun
with brown face set on top with already
thinning hair.
Caring, steadily caring, for ideas alone
had not kept you from trying to rise
to your feet, smiling against such a sea,
the surf cracking you back to a sitting
posture against the stone
beach, the sea sliding around you
no god to help you, only your stalk-
white, reddening legs
could lift you timed in the face of it.
No god there that afternoon, Carroll,
only our powers, not yours, our demons
sea . sun . wind-squall
among us found a balance.
It was your own.

This winter sun
streams across my legs and chest, flashes
across the crashing surf-line.
A fisherman comes down with a heavy line and
drags it out its length along the beach,
heaving
each portion out
into the surf
until it’s a snake part in, part out of water.
He washes, not too carefully
the oil slick off it . Long rope
it takes him a long time . He finishes finally
and sticking to rock
avoiding the sand he
hauls it again to the top of the sea-
wall and coils his rope
to dry in the sun,
slows his coiling to talk to a friend
gives the line a last turn
the work done.

When will we learn
so naturally to
quit, when what we have to do
is done?
Or that the print of rough stone,
rock
set deep in the flesh of the palm,
my own or yours,
see what we will in reading it, patterned
palms . pyramids . cuneiform
tablets, a cross, some
small starched waves or winging gulls, the shell,
the flower
we see or think we see . there
no matter
we trust and fear
this movement, that god,
will disappear
inside this quarter-hour?

Málaga, Winter 1956-57

“Carroll” is the poet Paul Carroll.

Note Blackburn’s “floating period,” which pauses the thought or image and at the same time continues the line’s movement. I have always suspected he picked it up from the eccentric punctuation in Ezra Pound’s Cantos worksheets (which is standardized in the New Directions collections).

Such a poem, it turned out, could only accommodate a limited amount of variation and materials that challenged its procedure. Anything that drew the poem inwards, that, in effect, unmoored its outer connections, seemed like sabotage. While there are some excellent poems of the early 1960s in which this frame is under great tension and bending to accommodate disintegrative psychological pressure (“The Sea and The Shadow” is an example), by the mid-60s Blackburn could no longer count on it as an organizing pattern. While it occurs from time to time in the “Journals” of the late-60s, it must fight for time and space there in a context that is increasingly given over to trivia and daily factual mapping.

The work of the mid-60s is to a great extent about Paul’s failure to come to terms with himself as a man, or to weather the transition from being a young, accomplished poet to becoming a mature poet with a sustaining pattern out of which to work. While Paul may have had complicated defenses in the social world, he had few in his poetry. In contrast to the self-contained pieces of the mid- and late-50s, which are models of opening, developing, and resolving a poem, the mid-60s work is amorphous, meandering and preoccupied with daily and historical events in a reportorial way. The specific and resolved poems are somewhat dated repetitions of earlier modes. Be this as it may, Blackburn’s fate is being worked out during this period, and any ultimate and genuine evaluation of his life and his poetry must take the mid-60s carefully into consideration.

In the early spring of 1963, Paul wrote most of the long “Selection of Heaven” and his fusion of New York City observation and Greek myth, “The Watchers,” two major works which, in the light of what he later produced, can oddly be thought of as summations. After these two peaks, references to alcohol, bars, bums, sensations of social or sexual rejection and impotence mill about in his writing. In a curious and touching way, the poem itself becomes a vagabond, without schedule or resting place. While Sara Blackburn, his second wife, is seldom mentioned at this point, she appears to be the companion figure who, according to Paul at least, is rejecting him.

There are fits and starts of word-play oriented poems, and some pieces that juxtapose seemingly unrelated patches of experience (e.g., “Hesper Adest” and “You Light It”), both modes of which could, under different circumstances, have been developed to stake out new grounds. Something deep and central in Paul has come unhinged and the poem has become a murky lamentation rather than a tool to get at and come to terms with the problem. At accurate indication of what has happened can be gauged by comparing “The Watchers” to a 1966 poem organized in a similar way, “the procedures.” In contrast to the former poem which bristles with alertness, the speaker in the latter piece is unengaged and seems to be writing to pass the time.

Blackburn’s decline in this period might well be pondered by younger writers coming to poetry now out of a William Carlos Williamsesque idiomatic tradition which has been filtered and softened by the “confessional” poetry of the late-50s/early-60s. On one hand, Blackburn stayed “open” by not locking himself into a set of values that would have determined what he affirmed and what he rejected. On the other hand, his failure to do so, made him extremely dependent upon the facts of daily existence in the harsh, impersonal labyrinth of New York City. Had he been tougher, more self-dependent, and more aggressive in directly expressing his feelings, he might have come through his “mid-life crisis,” completed his troubadour translation project, and developed a sustaining vision based on his work in the mid- to late-50s.

However, the facts, according to the poetry, seem to indicate that Paul’s sense of creative worth was exceptionally contingent upon sexual acceptance, very overtly in the case of women, and very covertly in the case of men. His antennae were lust-sensitive, and many poems are organized explicitly around an anonymous or intimately-known person who aroused him. As he approached his 40s, this point of imaginative ignition increasingly misfired, or did not spark at all, to the point that the pain of loving (himself as well as others) appears to have engulfed sexual gratification. In the chasm that began to appear as this single power gave way and divided was a morass of unresolvable childhood unhappiness.

In her Introduction to The Collected Poetry (Persea, NYC, 1985) Edie Jarolim writes that Paul and his slightly younger sister lived with his mother’s “strict and elderly grandparents” in Vermont between his fourth and fourteenth years, while his mother, Francis Frost, recipient of the 1929 Yale Younger Poets Award, was in New York City trying to earn a living as a writer, and living with a woman companion. According to comments that Robert Creeley has related,[2] Paul was regularly whipped by his maternal grandmother. The image of a small, brutalized fourteen year old Paul rejoining his mother in New York City in 1940 and via her encouragement becoming, as she did not, a major American poet and translator, is so redolent with Oedipal consternation that I begin to think that the host of anonymous women whose sexuality drifts in and out of his poetry (as well as his wonderful troubadour translations, which he could never to his satisfaction complete) is Paul’s reversed version of Isis and Osiris, in which it is the female figure whose body is scattered and the task of the poet-son to vainly attempt to reconstruct her via endless sallies into the moment of desire.

In this context it is worthwhile to think about what looked at superficially appears to be a heavy load of machoism in Blackburn’s poetry. Women are often signed, or identified, as sexual targets, and his seeming dependence on women for self-affirmation empowers them with overwhelming, sometimes menacing, psychic size. The humorous “takes” (from a patriarchal viewpoint) are in one way escape-valves to let out some of the pressure such size builds up. But it is more complicated than this. There is, for example, a cluster of images making use of traps and nets (the purse-seine in the poem by that title, “the net of lust” and “that silken trap” in “Call It the Net”) that evokes Blake’s poem, “The Crystal Cabinet.” Unlike the speaker in Blake’s superb lyric, who is brought to understand that intercourse per se is not going to yield an apocalyptic vision, Blackburn never seems to get clear as to the limitation, meanings, and specific mental rewards of sexual union—or is able to develop an alternative set of values that lie outside its crisis.

From the late-50s on, he seems to turn and twist, a dreamer in its nets, as if in the grip of an inhibition so intense that the source of the anguish (homosexuality?) cannot be identified, let alone addressed.

An indication of the extent to which sexual fulfillment is endlessly complicated occurs in the splendid “Purse-Seine,” when the “sea bird,” in context a gull-man-penis, facing the rising hips of the other, “hits the mast in the dark and falls / with a cry to the deck and flutters off.” These lines occur at the threshold of penetration, and immediately after the “bird” strikes this peculiar “mast,” we read: “Panic spreads, the / night is long, no / one sleeps, the net / is tight…” In “Call It The Net,” a poem written five years later, in 1964, the speaker “imagines a young woman / lying on her back at the intersection / third Ave., and 8th St.,” and as he continues to both titillate and vex himself, he writes:

It is a threshold I cross, no

longer an intersection, the bird

hidden in the shirt upon the chest

torn . the eye

swells in the head

bird flutters and falls into the sea of eyes

She was so beautiful

Bird and sun are holy take the head

tear it open and set it like a

melon upon the threshold .

Taken together, these two related passages suggest to me that Blackburn has projected a phallic intensity (“the mast”) upon the vagina, with a loss of potency before penetration can take place. Subsequently, in the above passage, he fantasizes that he is castrated, and offers the street-woman object of his fantasy his genitals as a sacrificial gift. Given that Blackburn’s first and ongoing projection of the creative self is the gull, which is envisioned as the poet’s own childhood body as well as the numinous word riding the wind, or lines, of inspiration,[3] the implication of these lines is nothing less than devastating. The sexual act becomes the sacrificial grounds where language, the poet, his identity and his sexuality are drawn and quartered.

“Lust is unpredictable,” he wrote in a poem dated June 21, 1963, in which a stanza describing an angry black woman on the A train appears in a context that otherwise has nothing to do with her. The next week or so, Blackburn wrote the shocking “Birds chirp listlessly in the heat,” now published in The Parallel Voyages,[4] which lets the reader in on what he believes women would do if they really had their own way with him. The terror implied by such writing is so extreme as to become somatically entropic. If the reader thinks that I am exaggerating, let him read “Crank It Up For All Of Us, But Let Me Heaven Go” in the Collected Poems. It is one of the most perfectly executed genuinely disturbing poems in American literature.

Keeping in mind the issue of machoism that I raised, I would like to suggest that there are at least three kinds of sexuality in Blackburn’s poetry, only one of which is offensive from my viewpoint (which is one that believes in reciprocity between the sexes). The first kind is of the dirty joke variety, with Blackburn ogling ass on the subway or identifying anonymous women on the basis of their sexual “equipment.” While such poems as “Clickety-Clack” and “The Once-Over,” are well-written examples of this kind of humor, they in no way represent the range and complexity of Blackburn’s sexuality or poetry at large, and it is a shame to see him again and again represented in anthologies by them.

A second kind is the turgid sexual despair that Paul attempted to reveal, or unravel, in the kind of poems that I quoted from earlier. Whatever sexism there may be in these multiple images of gulls, women, nets and masts, is overwhelmed, to my reading, by Blackburn’s self-inflicted short-circuiting, and I can only lament that he suffered so much in this way. I am moved, not put off, by his hesitant, always somewhat thwarted attempt to express the core of his compulsive self-revulsion.

A third kind of sexuality, and certainly the dominant one for the first half of Blackburn’s writing career, is an admiration and tender respect for what might be thought of as femininity in all forms. This motif is sounded again and again, as contact with women, animals (generally cats—the occasional dogs seem to indicate a negative male presence), and plants, and appears to envision a feminine principle as the force that provides the world with growth and beauty. When Blackburn is under the sway of this persuasion (generally in his apartment, in contrast to out on the street or in the New York City subway, he is fair-minded, masculine, and extremely sensitive. The reader who draws back at “The Once-Over” should be willing to read “The One Night Stand: An Approach to the Bridge,” in which there is a scene that many American men and women who grew up in the 40s and 50s experienced, suffered, and seldom happily resolved:

THE ONE-NIGHT STAND : AN APPROACH TO THE BRIDGE

Migod, a picture window

both of us sitting there

on the too-narrow couch

variously unclothed

watching sky lighten over the city

You compile your list of noes

it is incomplete

I add another

there is no anger

we keep it open

trying,

shying

away, your all

too-solid body melts, revives, stif-

fens, clears and dis-

solves, an i-

dentity emerges, disappears, it is

like watching a film, the takes dis-

solving into other takes,

spliced suddenly to a closeup

The window tints pink

I wait

We sleep a bit . Your

identity goes and comes

it is never for me, it

it is never sure of itself

I wait, you

ask too much of yourself, why

of the moment, why

is your fear of feeding off other people? Must

you always feed off yourself

and find it unreal food you eat, unreal

water you drink from the source of yourself, un-

real liquor you take from the hand of a friend, and

never grow gloriously drunk, but stay

eating yourself

finding the fare thin,

stay in a dark room holding

uneasily, in an unreal hand

a thin man’s unreal cock who stays

and grows more unreal to himself?

We both sleep.

New day’s sun

doubles itself in the river

A double string of blue lights

glares to mark the bridge, the

city huddles under a yellow light

the sodium flares

gleam under oblique

sun’s double in the stream,

I wake

ready, make my move.

“You’ll make me pregnant” you murmur

and barely audible, “I’ll die”

neither will stop me

your legs are open

I am there a the wet edge

of life, the moist living lips

It will not do

I have been at this life’s edge

and hurt too many hours

It will be all me for a moment

then all you

Identities will dissolve

under this new act, or

six quick strokes

you move once

toward me, say

one word, even

moan, I will be finished

done

dissolved

become real, alone, no

it will not do

You are no victim and

I no rapist hero, I can

still, I

I stop at the life’s edge

Later

we are too real

separate, try

to recover

dully, our-

selves gone out

The coffee does not warm

there is an orange sun in the river

there are blue lights on the bridge

Animal tenderness and

sadness is all we salvage, is

all the picture window

mirrors and maintains

[1961/1962]

What to say? There is no other poem from this period (or perhaps in American poetry at large) remotely like this. The speaker’s decision in favor of respecting his “date’s” sexual fears, and not pressing himself onto, and into, her, is genuinely evocative of Paul Blackburn’s respect for others at large.

I have drawn out these three differing attitudes toward sexuality to point out that they represent such a complex and complicated web of ambivalences that they cannot be simply passed off as macho. To read Blackburn on these matters and to think what they humanly mean makes me wonder what we would think of T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and Ezra Pound if, in their poetry, they had been as honest as Paul Blackburn about their sexual relationship to themselves and to their women and wives. The poetry of Blackburn represents a kind of halfway house in regard to the extent of the thrust into his fantasy life and the extent to which he was able to excavate the kind of ore that is precious to those of us who continue to believe, as has been attributed to Marx, that anything human is not alien.

It would be appropriate to evaluate Paul Blackburn’s poetry in the company of his own entire generation—not just the haphazardly-identified “Black Mountain” associates (Levertov, Dorn, Creeley, Oppenheimer etc)—but of those American poets born between 1923 and 1929, who began to make their mark in the mid- to late-50s. In this sense Blackburn’s company would also include Dickey, Simpson, Koch, Ammons, Merrill, Ginsberg, O’Hara, Bly, Ashbery, Merwin, Wright, Spicer, Levine, Sexton, and Rich. I would say that with the possible exceptions of Ginsberg and Rich that Blackburn is a match for any of these poets, and were a reader to assemble the best 100 pages of each of them, and do a comparative reading, that Blackburn’s 100 pages would be definitive and unique, an original energy that is not elsewhere duplicated or backgrounded e.g., he is not the lesser example of any other poet, his best work is not secondary. Here, for whatever it is worth, is a list of the poems by which I feel he should be centrally identified:

The Birds The Sea and the Shadow

The Lanner The One Night Stand…

The Search Ritual I

Pancho Villa… The Mint Quality

Bañalbufar… Bryant Park

Plaza Real with Palm Trees Phone Call to Rutherford

El Camino Verde Crank It Up…

The Letter This Is Not the Same…

Ramas, Divendres… Pre-Lenten Gestures

Alaméda #1, 7, and 17 from The Selection of Heaven

Affinities II The Watchers

Atardecer Here They Go

El Día Viene… At the Well

Brooklyn Narcissus Call It the Net

Hot Afternoons have been… Faces I

The Purse-Seine Sunflower Rock

Definition The Voices, It’s Cheap

The Net of Place The Touch

*

Between the years 1959 and 1966, Paul Blackburn and I had an active personal as well as literary friendship, much of which took place while he was in New York City and I was in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto, in the early to mid-60s, was a kind of mecca for a small group of American writers and artists, including Gary Snyder, Joanne Kyger, Cid Corman, Will Petersen, Frank Samperi, Philip Whalen, with occasional visits by Alan Watts and Allen Ginsberg. Paul seemed to notice that our presence there represented a new alternative to Paris as a base where foreign materials could be drawn into American art.

In his poetry as well as in his correspondence, I seemed to be on Paul’s mind more than the other Kyoto Americans, and some of the gifts I sent him (in particular, a happi coat mentioned in “Doubles: It’s a Cabin” which he wore until it disintegrated) turned up in poems, as well as news from my daily life. A tape on which I described the images tacked upon the wall over my work area, along with a reading of Hart Crane’s “The Harbor Dawn,” led to Section 5 of “The Selection of Heaven,” and material describing workmen in the ravine (behind the downstairs area of the Okumura house where we lived in 1962) warming their hands over fires they had built in oil-drums stimulated Paul to bring noticings of similar scenes in New York City into “Ritual IX: Gathering Winter Fuel.” The conjunctions of hands and fire was also symbolically worked into “Crank It Up For All Of Us…,” one of the poems Paul read on a 1963 tape sent to Kyoto that stunned me and consequently help me break through a block that had paralyzed me for over a year.[5] His last mention of Kyoto appears to have been in the “24 . II . 64 / Note to Kyoto,” in which he expressed the age-old spring desire to get roving again, in his own case to leap back to Paris and Barcelona.

Paul was a loyal and comradely correspondent during these years, exactly the kind of slightly older friend that a young uncertain poet needs—not a mentor, let alone a master, but someone with a slight edge of experience who is willing to set forth his view and let the younger person make of them what he can.

Paul was the first person to make me aware to what extent my creative blocks had to do with a swelling up of unassimilated childhood material, and of the extent to which participating in a full present life had to do with working through such material. In 1963 he married his second wife, Sara Golden, and spontaneously I started to write a poem celebrating their marriage. As I worked away on it, the problems in my own first marriage tore through the fabric, so I set the Blackburn poem aside and tried to concentrate on my own difficulties, into which churned so much material from the past that before I knew it I was working on a poem that attempted to bring my past life to bear on all that had happened to me since I had started writing poetry and come to Kyoto. This still unpublished four hundred page poem, “The Tsuruginomiya Regeneration,” was used as a quarry for the some of the sections in Coils, published by Black Sparrow Press in 1973.

It has now been over fifteen years since Paul’s death, and not a week has gone by that I have not thought of him. It seems on one level that the fate of our friendship was in the stars, that we were to be magnetized and then demagnetized by currents that rose up through us. Our closest years took place continents apart and appeared to be balanced not only on the age difference (nine years) but on my youthful and Paul’s more mature uncertainties. This incongruity was very workable when we were apart, but when I moved to New York City in the summer of 1966 and started the groundwork for the life that I have been building ever since, while Paul, from about 1963 on, seemed to be losing his grip on much that was dearest to him, the vectors of our drawing apart were set in motion. I was not invited to dinner at the Blackburns during the entire first year of my separation from Barbara Eshleman. During the summer of 1967, Sara had an affair with Hunter Thompson while she and Paul were in Aspen, Colorado. Sara returned to New York City before Paul did and begged me not to tell him when he returned where she was living because she was afraid that he would physically attack her. When Paul did return, with a broken arm from a bicycle accident, I told him that I did not know where she was living, and he decided that this meant that I had had an affair with her myself (which I had not). I probably did the wrong thing by not telling him, since my primary loyalty was to Paul and not to Sara. This misunderstanding nearly destroyed our friendship and while I continued to see Paul from time to time in the late 1960s our relationship was that of acquaintances, not friends.

Cutting through how we felt about each other was how we felt about ourselves as men and as writers in a world that never lets us take anything for granted. Thinking about Paul now makes me realize how tough, how nigh impossible it is, for American artists of different generations to have lifelong friendships.

1987





[1] This essay, now with minor revisions and a few additions, introduced Paul Blackburn’s The Parallel Voyages, edited and annotated by Edith Jarolim, with drawings by Ellen McMahon, SUN-gemini Press, Tucson, 1987. At the end of this Introduction I commented on some of the previously unpublished Blackburn poems I had collected from the UCSD Special Collections Library and included in The Parallel Voyages. I have not reprinted that section here.

[2] See Creeley’s brief Preface to Against the Silences, Permanent Press, London & New York, 1980. While the editor Robert Vas Dias states on the back of this book that it “comprises the last manuscript remaining to be published which Paul Blackburn conceived as a separate and unified book,” he informs the reader in a Publisher’s Note that he has eliminated a third of this manuscript from the present book. Vas Dias also states that “no title has been assigned to the collection,” while assigning to it the first half of a poem title, “Against the Silences of Staircases.” Without “of Staircases,” “Against the Silences” is “poetic” in a way that Blackburn always avoided. Blackburn himself referred to this gathering as “the black binder,” which seems to me to be the most appropriate title for the collection—which should have also been published entire, as Paul left it.

[3] From the late 1940s through the early 1960s, Blackburn’s poetry is graced with continuing bird, most often gull, appearances. Some of the key poems in this respect are: “Cantar de Noit,” “The Birds,” “The Lanner,” Winter Solstice,” The Purse-Seine,” “The Summer Window,” “In Winter,” and sections 1 and 6 of “The Selection of Heaven.” He once wrote to me in 1963: “Dear Clay, Never look a gull in the eye, love, Paul.”

[4] I founded Sulfur magazine at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in the spring of 1981, and the first eight issues were edited there, published by the Institute, with a commitment of deficit funding for five years provided by President Goldberger. In 1983, I was informed by Goldberger that Caltech’s name had to be immediately struck from Sulfur because of the following incident: he had been using discretionary funds from the Weingart Foundation in Pasadena to support the magazine, and at one point showed the Weingart Board of Trustees a copy of Sulfur #4, which included twenty-two of the Blackburn poems included in The Parallel Voyages. Apparently, someone from the Foundation picked up the issue, leafed through and settled on “Birds chirp listlessly in the heat…” which he read aloud to everyone at the Board meeting. He then told Goldberger that Sulfur was pornographic and that their funds were no longer to be used to support the magazine, and that they wanted Caltech’s name removed from it. Goldberger told me that as much as he disagreed with the Trustees’ response, he had to honor it because of the Weingart Foundation’s huge yearly donations to the Institute. Goldberger, quite honorably I felt, offered to make good on his original five year deficit funding commitment to Sulfur via other sources, so that the magazine could continue either on its own for a while or until it attracted a new sponsor. While the Blackburn poem is genuinely shocking, it is hardly pornographic. That a single poem by this shy, unassertive poet was sufficient to nearly eliminate a literary magazine on grounds of censorship in 1983 should keep us all alert to the fact that while things seem to change, “the sexual revolution” etc., on another level they remain stuck, and the same.

[5] There is amore complete description of the effect of this poem on me in my essay, “The Gull Wall,” most recently reprinted in The Grindstone of Rapport / A Clayton Eshleman Reader, Black Widow Press, Boston, 2008.

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