Thursday, August 7, 2008

Cid Corman, Etheridge Knight, Wendell Berry and the Art of Hearing Silence

Artwork by Albert Huffstickler

A couple of items of interest this week. Etheridge Knight has appeared twice in the news in the last little while. His work is featured in issue #7 of Presa, with a remembrance in an article entitled "Lest We Forget" by Ronnie Lane. Indeed. Knight was one of the most straightforward, powerful poets to emerge from the 60's, his first collection being published by Broadside Press while he was still in prison. In addition, Mary Karr has published a remembrance and poem by Knight in her most recent Poet's Choice column in the Washington Post. Here's another poem that gets down to the essence: Feeling Fucked Up.
This week is also the birthday of another of our contemporary greats, Wendell Berry. The following is one of his most famous poems and its got it all:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night to the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives might be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world and am free.
Wendell Berry

Happy birthday, Mr. Berry.

The last item in the news this week is a sad one. Though they fought a valiant battle, Acres of Books in Long Beach, CA, will be closing. Even the mighty Ray Bradbury couldn't stem the continuous tide of failing bookshops. It is, indeed, a very sad day.

Recently, I have been complaining of the dearth of good modern poetry books, at least the ones I've been reading
(or, alternately, the fact that I've finally been broken on the poetic wheel). I'm happy to report that I've run into one I can heartily recommend: The Next One Thousand Years: the Selected Poems of Cid Corman. Edited by Ce Rosenow and Bob Arnold and published by Bob and Susan Arnold's Longhouse Publishers, this generous selection of Cid's work was just the thing to get me off the anti-lyrical snide. This particular collection of Cid's work highlights his translations of both classic and modern works, as well as his own work. Over 70 of the 190 plus pages are devoted to translations. If Basho, Issa, Saigyo, Rilke and Rumi are your poets of preference, you will see them through new eyes when you see them through Cid's translations. His own work is, for me, the highlight however. Cid was so prolific that there probably could be a different version of his selected works for each year in the title of this volume. The selection here is spot-on, covering his entire career. I found myself marking for further review the poems of his later years, when his work was honed down to sparse, scintillating points. Here are a couple to whet your taste:

I will tell you the secret.

What is it? - you ask?
I keep telling you:



Ask me when
I am dead
the meaning

of this. Then
each word will
answer you.


Of course,
life matters.

and let me
know it.


If you are a fan of Cid's, from Lilliput or his Modest Proposal chapbooks or his numerous other works, this is a must-have collection. Hopefully, there is much, much more to come.

This week's featured issue from the
Lilliput archive is #106, from September 1999. Enjoy.

Truth Is The Person Who Is There

The sky meets the mountain with no further

Geoff Bouvier


Soft, sandy fine earth,
I draw her initials in
your impermanence.

Linda Zeiser


Love this man
-------and you will attain nothing
Ah! to love the sea!

Kane Way


crossing the verrazano-narrows
eat beef
be well
try sontag
she's old

Laura Joy Lustig





Through the silence
--------another silence
gathers around her lips

Carl Mayfield



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Review free (or have your current subscription extended two issues),
just make a suggestion of a title or titles for the Near Perfect Books 
of Poetry page, either in a comment to this post, in email to lilliput
review at gmail dot com, or in snail mail to the address on the


Charles Gramlich said...

Wendall Berry's "peace of wild things" is a tremendous poem. I so enjoy such nature poems, although for me they are always a struggle to write.

Jim H. said...

That Etheridge Knight poem is some good shit!

Grant Hackett said...

I hope those poets writing short poems in September, 1999 are still doing it.
Thanks for the alert about Cid Corman's book. His work is just that, always alert.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles: I feel exactly the same way about nature poems and this one particularly. They are always a return to the essence and a reminder that, not only is it where we are heading, truly it's where we already are and have always been.

Jim: More Etheridge Knight poems can be found here:

The Essential Etheridge Knight from University of Pittsburgh Press is a volume everyone should have. And, yes, indeed, some very good shit!

G: Zeiser and Mayfield are definitely still writing. The others I haven't heard from but one can hope ...


Greg said...

it's sad about that bookstore. another one down....

thanks for the heads up about the cid corman collection -- i'll keep an eye out for it. i like that "listen" poem. very deep.

by the way, i finally got my library to borrow a copy of johnny baranski's "pencil flowers: jail haiku" from another library on that list you gave me -- thanks for the idea! it was well worth the time and effort.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Hey, glad to hear the library came through for you. You'll have to let me know how the Baranski is.

Besides quite a few poems, I published
two chapbooks
and two broadsides of Cid's work before he died. I learned a lot from him.


Greg said...

"Pencil Flowers" is a great collection. Here's a few excerpts:

All broken up
by the jailhouse window --
the new moon.

Brought by the wind
these tiny seeds have sprouted
some big black crows.

caught stealing
a few moments of sleep --
guntower guard

I think the spacing will probably get messed up, but that's okay. There's also a neat haiga with one of the author's sketches, and a few short non-haiku poems. Great collection. I don't want to give it back.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Hey, Greg:

Thanks ... I do like these pieces by Baranski, even if the formatting is off.

Is "Pencil Flowers" good enough for the Near Perfect list?


Greg said...

Yeah, I think I'd put it on there. It's a strong collection, and includes a couple longer poems and notes. Very reminiscent of some of Etheridge Knight's work.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Greg, thanks much - I put it on - your sub extended two issues to 168.

I put The Essential Etheridge Knight on the list, to boot.

The list is now up to 90 books.


Poet Hound said...

I hope my library has Cid Corman's book that you reviewed, thanks for letting us know about it! As always, I love the precious gems you include from the back issues.

Greg said...

90 books... wow! that's quite a list. thanks for the extra 2 issues!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

PH, Thanks for the kind words. Corman, though well known amongst the small press and poetry set, may be a bit tough to find. Have you ever asked for interlibrary loan at your library? That's were they get books for you from libraries outside of yours or your system on loan and send them back when you're done.

Greg, thanks to some recent returns from folks in the print world the list has now hit 100. I think I'll post a notice today. Thanks for your contributions.