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Paul Blackburn Papers
MSS 0004  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Blackburn, Paul
    Title: Paul Blackburn Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1919 - 1971
    Extent: 20.50 linear feet (49 archives boxes, 2 card file boxes and 8 oversize folders)
    Abstract: Papers of an American poet, translator, editor, and literary agent, containing materials that detail the course of his career and personal life from the early 1940s through the early 1970s. Blackburn was the author of nineteen books of poetry published between 1955 and 1980, the last six appearing posthumously. He translated the work of such writers as Pablo Picasso, Federico Garcia Lorca and Julio Cortazar, and served as Cortezar's agent. He was also a contributing editor of the BLACK MOUNTAIN REVIEW and the poetry editor of THE NATION for a short time. Over half of the collection is composed of photographs and correspondence. The photographs are primarily of Blackburn's family and friends. The correspondence relates to both personal and professional matters, and consists not only of letters received by Blackburn, but also of many copies of his own letters. Among the prominent correspondents are Julio Cortazar, Charles Reznikoff, Ezra Pound, Octavio Paz, Charles Olson, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, and Blackburn's mother, Frances Frost. The collection also includes manuscripts and typescripts of poems, prose and translations dated from the 1940s through the early 1970s and materials relating to the business aspects of Blackburn's career, including contracts, reading schedules and some business correspondence.
    Repository: University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
    La Jolla, California 92093-0175
    Collection number: MSS 0004
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    Paul Blackburn Papers, MSS 0004. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Biography

    Born in Saint Albans, Vermont, November 24th 1926, Paul Blackburn influenced contemporary literature through his poetry, translations and the encouragement and patronage he offered to fellow poets. His parents, William Gordon Blackburn and Frances Frost (also a poet, novelist and author of children's books) separated when Blackburn was three. He was cared for primarily by his maternal grandparents until he was fourteen, when his mother took him back to New York City to live with her in Greenwich Village. He began writing poetry in his late teens under her encouragement.
    Just after enrolling in New York University in 1945, Blackburn joined the army in hopes of being sent overseas. The war ended shortly thereafter however, and he served as a laboratory technician in Colorado. In 1947 he returned to NYU, and subsequently transferred to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1949, graduating in 1950.
    It was during his college years that Blackburn first came under the influence of Ezra Pound. While at the University of Wisconsin he began corresponding with Pound, and hitchhiked to Washington D.C. several times to visit him at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Via Pound, he came in to contact with Cid Corman, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, Joel Oppenheimer and Jonathan Williams. Through this contact came an ancillary involvement with the first two issues of Olson's magazine, BLACK MOUNTAIN REVIEW, and consequent, the inexact [erroneous?] inclusion of Blackburn in the Black Mountain school of poets. Blackburn neither attended the college, not taught there, and as Edith Jarolim points out in her intoduction to the Collected Poems, "Blackburn always opposed the division of poets into schools and did not like the role of Black Mountain poet into which he was cast by Donald Allen's anthology THE NEW AMERICAN POETRY (1960). He embraced all types of poetry, citing the value of "all work, if you work 'em right." (E. Jarolim in THE COLLECTED POEMS OF PAUL BLACKBURN, 1985)
    It was Pound as well, who pointed Blackburn in the direction of Provencal poetry, and he studied the languages of Provence while at the University of Wisconsin. His work on Provencal translations intensified following the 1953 publication of a slim selection of the translations and with a Fulbright Fellowship in 1954 to study Provencal language and literature in France. This vein of his work continued for the rest of his life and didn't see full publication until after his death because he was never quite satisfied with it.
    Blackburn was also well-known for his translations from Spanish of the epic Poem for the Cid, Lorca, a book of Pablo Picasso's poems, and of contemporary South American writers such as Octavio Paz and his friend Julio Cortazar.
    In addition to the poetry and the translating, Blackburn played an important part in the poetry community, helping fledgling poets develop, and providing emotional support and opportunities to read for both unknown and established writers at the various reading series with which was involved. He was central in organizing readings that offered work from the Beats, the New York School, the Deep Image Poets, and the Black Mountain Poets. Clayton Eshleman has written, "Many, not just a few, but many poets alive today are beholden to him for a basic artistic kindness, for readings, yes, and for advice, but more humanly for a kind of comradeship that very few poets are willing to give." The readings he ran were progenitors to the Poetry Project at St. Marks Church on the Bowery.
    Up until the mid-1960s Blackburn supported himself by various print-shop, editorial and translating jobs, including a short stint as poetry editor of THE NATION. Some of his early jobs included working in-house on encyclopedias, and writing free lance reviews. By the mid-1960s Blackburn began receiving offers of teaching positions, and in 1965, 1966 and 1967 he directed workshops at the Aspen Writers' Conference. He was Poet-In-Residence at City College of New York in 1966-67. A Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967 enabled him to return to Europe to work on his translations and poetry. Upon returning to the U.S. he supported himself through reading tours and teaching at the State University of New York at Cortland.
    Blackburn was married three times: to Winifred Grey McCarthy from 1954 to 1958; Sara Golden from 1963 to 1967; and to Joan Diane Miller in 1968, with whom he had his son, Carlos T. Blackburn died in 1971 of the esophageal cancer.
    During his lifetime Blackburn published thirteen books of poetry: THE DISSOLVING FABRIC (1955), BROOKLYN MANHATTAN TRANSIT: A BOUQUET FOR FLATBUSH (1960), THE NETS (1961), 16 SLOPPY HAIKU AND A LYRIC FOR ROBERT REARDON (1966), SING SONG (1966), THE REARDON POEMS (1967), THE CITIES (1967), IN. ON. OR ABOUT THE PREMISES (1968), TWO NEW POEMS (1969), THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT MCKINLEY, THREE DREAMS AND AN OLD POEM, GIN: FOUR JOURNAL PIECES (1970), and THE JOURNALS: BLUE MOUNDS ENTRIES (1971); and 5 major works of translations: PROENSA (1953), POEM OF THE CID (1996), Julio Cortazar's END OF THE GAME AND OTHER STORIES (1967), Pablo Picasso' s HUNK OF SKIN and Julio Cortazar's CRONOPIOS AND FAMAS.
    Nine other books of poetry were published posthumously: EARLY SELECTED Y MAS: POEMS 1949-1966 (1972), THE JOURNALS, HALFWAY DOWN THE COAST (1975), BY EAR (1978), AGAINST THE SILENCES (1980), THE SELECTION OF HEAVEN (1980), THE COLLECTED POEMS OF PAUL BLACKBURN (1985), THE SELECTED POEMS(?) and THE PARALLEL VOYAGES (1987); and 2 works of translation: PROENSA: AN ANTHOLOGY OF TROUBADOR POETRY (1978) AND LORCA/BLACKBURN: POEMS OF FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA CHOSEN BY PAUL BLACKBURN (1979).
    For a complete bibliography see Kathleen Woodward, PAUL BLACKBURN: A CHECKLIST (San Diego: Archive for New Poetry, University of California, San Diego, 1980).

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The papers document the life and literary career of Paul Blackburn. Although some family documents such as photographs date from the early 1900s, the bulk of the materials relate directly to Blackburn's life and date from the early 1940s to the early 1970s. The collection is arranged in nine series: 1) ORIGINAL POETRY, 2) TRANSLATIONS, 3) PROSE AND INTERVIEWS, 4) POETRY/TRANSLATION BUSINESS, 5) PERSONAL AND FAMILY MATERIALS, 6) EPHEMERA, 7) CORRESPONDENCE, 8) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS, and 9) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    SERIES 1: ORIGINAL POETRY
    The first series consists of manuscripts and typescripts of poetry and related materials. The majority of these papers were collected from notebooks which Blackburn usually dated; the material is arranged chronologically by those dates. The notebooks often reveal Blackburn's location at the time that he was working on that material; e.g., folder 4.11 is titled "Fragile, mostly Europe." This series includes both unpublished work and early versions of work that was published later.
    SERIES 2: TRANSLATIONS
    The TRANSLATIONS series is arranged by the original language and the name of the author. This series contains not only formal translations, but related materials such as notes on foreign languages and lists of translations as well. Within each subseries the work is arranged chronologically. The first subseries is titled "Provencal Translations" and consists primarily of materials taken from ten notebooks titled "Toulouse." These notebooks are dated from 1954 through 1964 and contain translations, notes and expense lists. The subseries titled "Blackburn's Provencal File" contains an alphabetical file that Blackburn compiled of his translations. Subsequent subseries are arranged according to the work or author translated and deal successively with his translations of Proensa, The Cid, and work by Julio Cortazar, Frederico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Picasso, Antonio Jimenez Landi, Octavio Paz, Herberto Padilla, Nicolas Guillen, Eduardo Escobar, Javier Heraud, and Leandro Katz. The series concludes with a collection of work in foreign languages, translations of Blackburn's work into foreign languages, and miscellaneous translations into English. Correspondence related to translations can be found in the series POETRY/TRANSLATION BUSINESS.
    SERIES 3: PROSE AND INTERVIEWS
    The PROSE AND INTERVIEWS series is made up of both fiction and non-fiction work. There are reviews of a number of books, including Hugh Kenner's THE POETRY OF EZRA POUND and Robert Creeley's LE FOU. Two transcripts of interviews are also included, along with a short story and a synopsis for a screenplay. The series also contains miscellaneous readers' reports, recommendations and notes on articles for Funk and Wagnall's NEW INTERNATIONAL YEARBOOK.
    SERIES 4: POETRY/TRANSLATION BUSINESS
    The material relating to POETRY/TRANSLATION BUSINESS is divided into three categories: the first dealing with royalties, contracts, permissions, and reading tours for Blackburn's own work; the second containing correspondence concerning the literary estate of Frances Frost; and the third relating to Blackburn's duties as Julio Cortazar's agent.
    SERIES 5: PERSONAL AND FAMILY MATERIALS
    The PERSONAL AND FAMILY MATERIALS series, arranged chronologically, contains a wide range of materials detailing Blackburn's activities from 1944 through 1971. The materials not only shed light on his private life, but provide a wealth of information relating to his family history. The early sections contain such items as diplomas, notebooks, resumes, and job applications. The second part of the series is made up of photographs relating to Blackburn's own activities and to his family's background. Some of the pictures of his family date back to the early 1900s.
    SERIES 6: EPHEMERA
    The EPHEMERA series is made up of miscellaneous materials including pamphlets, newspaper clippings, proofs of poems, and materials found in Blackburn's books.
    SERIES 7: CORRESPONDENCE
    The CORRESPONDENCE, divided into three subseries, constitutes the largest series in the collection. Each of the subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. The first subseries consists of family correspondence, including copies of letters sent by Blackburn himself. Each folder contains the letters of a single correspondent, and the correspondent is identified in the container list. The second subseries consists of general correspondence, and these letters offer a wide range of insights into Blackburn's personal life and work. The third subseries, comprising miscellaneous correspondence, is made up primarily of unidentified correspondence, including a large number of Christmas cards and unidentified postcards.
    SERIES 8: MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS
    The MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS series is divided into four subseries. The first is a collection of photocopies of Blackburn's publications compiled by Kathleen Woodward. This subseries begins with a chronological arrangement of Blackburn's published poems and is followed by copies of non-fiction prose, poems from anthologies, and translations-- all arranged chronologically. The second subseries contains a copy of Edith Jarolim's dissertation on Blackburn, which was later published by Perseus Press. Two card indexes constitute the final subseries; one is of Blackburn's published work, the other of his unpublished work.
    SERIES 9: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
    The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains fragile or brittle items that have been photocopied and segregated.
    Separation Note
    Books, journals and audiorecordings received in the 1973 accession of the Paul Blackburn Papers have been separated from the collection and added elsewhere to the library's holdings. To identify audiorecordings he owned, conduct an author search in ROGER on the term "Blackburn, Paul former owner," then click on the "Limit the Search" button, and in the "Material type" box select "Records/Tapes" from the pull-down menu.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.

    Subjects

    Blackburn, Paul -- Archives
    Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973 -- Translations into English
    Jiménez-Landi, Antonio -- Translations into English
    Provençal poetry -- Translations into English
    American poetry -- 20th century
    Photographic prints -- 1950-1959.
    Photographic prints -- 1960-1969.
    Photographic prints -- 1970-1979.

    Contributors

    Frost, Frances Mary, 1905-1959, -- correspondent
    Allen, Donald Merriam, 1912- -- correspondent
    Corman, Cid, -- correspondent
    Cortázar, Julio, -- correspondent
    Creeley, Robert, 1926- -- correspondent
    Duncan, Robert Edward, 1919- -- correspondent
    Eshleman, Clayton, -- correspondent
    Hamady, Walter, -- correspondent
    Kelly, Robert, 1935- -- correspondent
    Levertov, Denise, 1923-1997 -- correspondent
    Loewinsohn, Ron, -- correspondent
    Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976, -- correspondent
    Olson, Charles, 1910-1970, -- correspondent
    Paz, Octavio, 1914-1998, -- correspondent
    Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972, -- correspondent
    Randall, Margaret, 1936- -- correspondent
    Raworth, Tom, -- correspondent
    Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931- -- correspondent
    Wakoski, Diane, -- correspondent
    Williams, Jonathan, 1929- -- correspondent
    Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978, -- correspondent