Scope and Content of Collection
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: Paul Blackburn Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0004
22 Linear feet
(51 archives boxes, 2 card file boxes and 1 flat box)
Date (inclusive): 1919 - 1971
Abstract: Papers of Paul Blackburn, an American poet, translator, editor, and literary agent. 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
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 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.
Scope and Content of Collection
Papers of Paul Blackburn, an American poet, translator, editor, and literary agent. Over half of the collection is composed
of photographs and correspondence which document his life and literary career. 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. 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.
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.
The collection is arranged in eight series: 1) ORIGINAL POETRY, 2) TRANSLATIONS, 3) PROSE AND INTERVIEWS, 4) POETRY/TRANSLATION
BUSINESS, 5) PERSONAL AND FAMILY MATERIALS, 6) EPHEMERA, 7) CORRESPONDENCE, and 8) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS.
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:
Poem of the El 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),
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).
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Paul Blackburn Papers, MSS 0004. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Boxes 52 and 53 contain fragile originals that may be used only with permission of the Director of Special Collections & Archives.
Preservation photocopies of these items are available in the collection.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Photographic prints -- 1960-1969
Photographic prints -- 1970-1979
Photographic prints -- 1950-1959
American poetry -- 20th century
Provençal poetry -- Translations into English
Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978 -- Correspondence
Williams, Jonathan, 1929-2008 -- Correspondence
Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972 -- Correspondence
Paz, Octavio, 1914-1998 -- Correspondence
Olson, Charles, 1910-1970 -- Correspondence
Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976 -- Correspondence
Wakoski, Diane -- Correspondence
Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931- -- Correspondence
Raworth, Tom -- Correspondence
Randall, Margaret, 1936- -- Correspondence
Allen, Donald, 1912-2004 -- Correspondence
Frost, Frances Mary, 1905-1959 -- Correspondence
Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005 -- Correspondence
Cortázar, Julio -- Correspondence
Levertov, Denise, 1923-1997 -- Correspondence
Loewinsohn, Ron -- Correspondence
Jiménez-Landi, Antonio -- Translations into English
Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973 -- Translations into English
Blackburn, Paul, 1926-1971 -- Archives
Eshleman, Clayton -- Correspondence
Duncan, Robert, 1919-1988 -- Correspondence
Kelly, Robert, 1935- -- Correspondence
Hamady, Walter -- Correspondence
Corman, Cid -- Correspondence