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Register of the Clayton Eshleman Papers MSS 21
MSS 21  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Related Materials

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Clayton Eshleman Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 21
    Contributing Institution: Mandeville Special Collections Library
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 66.4 Linear feet (148 archives boxes, 42 oversize folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1958 - 1993
    Abstract: The papers of Clayton Eshleman, American poet, translator, and editor. Included is extensive correspondence dating from 1963 to 1992; original typescripts and manuscripts of Eshleman's prose and verse writings; travel notebooks; interviews; original typescript and manuscript drafts of original works; drafts and correspondence pertaining to Eshleman's translations of Antonin Artaud, Bernard Bador, Aime Cesaire, Michel Deguy, Juan Guzman Cruchaga, Cesar Vallejo, and others; original submissions, later drafts with editorial changes, and paste-ups, all relating to the publication of Sulfur; and various personal ephemera. The collection comprises an extensive source of information on the American, Latin American, and European poetry scene of the post-Beat era.
    Creator: Eshleman, Clayton

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Accessions Processed in 1987
    The Clayton Eshleman Papers document Eshleman's career as writer, editor and translator. The papers also shed light on the post-war American poetry scene which Eshleman helped to shape. Materials relating to Eshleman's journals Caterpillar and Sulfur are especially valuable in relation to the literary scene ca. 1960-1986. The entire collection dates from 1959 to 1986, although the bulk of the materials were created between 1970 and 1985. The collection is divided into seven series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) WRITINGS, 3) CATERPILLAR MATERIALS, 4) SULFUR MATERIALS, 5) TEACHING MATERIALS, 6) PERSONAL EPHEMERA and 7) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    The bulk of the CORRESPONDENCE is organized alphabetically by the correspondent's last name. Also included are materials arranged by first name, accommodating unidentified correspondents. Within each folder, materials are in chronological order.
    The correspondence dates from 1963 to 1986, although the bulk of the materials are from the years 1970-1985. Extensive correspondence between Eshleman and John Martin (of Black Sparrow Press) provides an unusually detailed record of the activities surrounding the publication of Eshleman's work. Multiple drafts and revisions of Eshleman's own letters offer insight into his diligent compositional methods -- methods that give his letters remarkable energy and accuracy. Typical letters offer considered observations on poetry and publishing, and the frankness of many letters makes for lively exchanges.
    Among Eshleman's correspondents were many important figures in the world of contemporary American writing. Included is correspondence with Donald Allen, Charles Altieri, David Antin, Rae Armantrout, Charles Bernstein, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, David Bromige, Hayden Carruth, James Clifford, Michael Davidson, George Economou, Susan Howe, Fanny Howe, Nora Jaffe, Lyn Hejinian, James Laughlin, Jackson Mac Low, Michael Palmer, Marjorie Perloff, and Jerome Rothenberg.
    The WRITINGS Series is divided into four subseries: A) Poetry, B) Translations, C) Notebooks, and D) Miscellaneous.
    A) The poetry subseries contains original manuscript and typescript drafts, worksheets with holograph revisions, photocopies, carbon copies, page-proofs, and final published states. Comprised of 24 archives boxes, this subseries is organized chronologically from 1959 to 1985. Chronological ordering best informs the complex compositional evolution of Eshleman's works. For example, materials that appear in the final typescript draft of What She Means (1978) appear as early as 1975, and then again, in different form, as part of the early typescript material for The Name Encanyoned River (1986), dated from 1984 to 1986. The poetry has been arranged chronologically wherever possible, with published and unpublished works forming one unified sequence.
    B) The second subseries of WRITINGS contains those materials relating to Eshleman's work as a translator. The materials are here arranged by author, in alphabetical order: Antonin Artaud, Bernard Bador, Aime Cesaire, Michel Deguy, Juan Guzman Cruchaga, miscellaneous translations, and Cesar Vallejo. Correspondence relating to legal problems publishing Vallejo completes the subseries, together with a collection of notes for an anthology of Vallejo, Artaud, and Cesaire, an anthology probably published as Conductors of the Pit.
    In the translation subseries, materials include original manuscript and typescript drafts, corrections, correspondence with the author or executor, finished translations, and materials relating to publishing rights. The materials are arranged by individual work, and thereunder in the approximate order followed in the process of producing the work. In some cases individual works are arranged alphabetically.
    C) The third subseries within the WRITINGS consists of Eshleman's notebooks. Like the poetry subseries, the notebooks are in chronological order and date from 1964 to 1983. Because the chronological progression of the notebooks corresponds to the progression of the poetry subseries as outlined above, the notebooks may be cautiously regarded as worksheets for the published texts. Much of the text of the notebooks reflects Eshleman's diverse interests and wide reading (Reich and Bakhtin are prevalent), interspersed with inconsequential notes concerning travel and money.
    D) The fourth subseries of the WRITINGS consists of miscellaneous writings and is divided into five parts. The first contains poems and letters written, probably by Eshleman, under the pseudonym Horrah Pornoff. Many of these Pornoff materials were sent, presumably as a hoax, to several influential editors. The hoax was sustained through a long correspondence with Cid Corman.
    The rest of the miscellaneous writings include essays, reviews, public announcements (such as press releases), and writings by other authors. The essays written by Eshleman are arranged in alphabetical order by title. These are followed by reviews about Eshleman, many, self-reflexively, by Eshleman himself. The reviews by Eshleman are organized alphabetically by the author reviewed. The writings by other authors include typescripts and photocopies of typescripts, many of which may have been sent to Eshleman for inclusion in Sulfur or other publications.
    Contained in the CATERPILLAR series are a small group of materials relating to Eshleman's work on this journal. The folder labeled "Caterpillar Anthology" contains working materials used by Eshleman in producing the journal, including edited typescripts of submissions. Very few original submissions are included. The essay "Doing Caterpillar" summarizes the entire enterprise.
    The SULFUR series is comprised of documents relating to Eshleman's work as editor of this influential literary journal. Included are a wide range of materials relating to all aspects of production, including correspondence with contributors, business correspondence, drafts of submissions (often annotated by Eshleman), artwork, blues, and paste-ups. The materials for Sulfur 2 present the most complete and detailed documentation of the production process.
    Much correspondence with individual contributors to Sulfur has been included in the CORRESPONDENCE series. Since work on Sulfur has been an important facet of Eshleman's activities, it was often impossible to separate those letters relating exclusively to Sulfur.
    The TEACHING MATERIALS comprise a small series documenting some aspects of Eshleman's academic positions. Of special interest are students' letters to Eshleman.
    The PERSONAL EPHEMERA Series includes Eshleman's non-literary personal papers, materials relating to Eshleman's employment at UCLA extension and as part of the Los Angeles "Poets in the Schools" program, materials related to travel, and materials relating to the Dordogne region in France where Eshleman studied paleolithic cave art.
    The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or high acid content documents that have been photocopied.
    Accessions Processed in 1995
    The accessions processed in 1994 continue to document Eshleman's career as writer, editor and translator. A considerable section of these papers covers the production stages of books by Eshleman published between 1986 and 1990, but the bulk of materials covers the production of Sulfur magazine from 1986 to 1991. The accession dates from 1976 to 1993, with the majority of the materials concentrated between 1986 and 1992. The collection is arranged in nine series: 8) GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, 9) WRITINGS, 10) BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTS AND EPHEMERA, 11) WRITINGS ABOUT ESHLEMAN, 12) WRITINGS BY OTHERS, 13) CATERPILLAR ANTHOLOGY, 14) SULFUR, 15) PHOTOGRAPHS, and 17) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    This series is organized alphabetically by correspondent's last name. Within the folder, materials are in chronolgical order and include responses from Eshleman. There is a general file for each letter of the alphabet, accommodating correspondents with less than three items; within these general folders, materials are in alphabetical order. Also included are materials by unidentified correspondents, located at the end of the series. Eshleman's list of correspondents remains nearly the same as in the original accession, as does the breadth and tone of the exchanges. The correspondence with Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Clark Coolidge, Wolfgang Giegerich, Gary Snyder, Marilyn Kallet, Wes Chistensen, Barbara Mor, Diane Wakoski, Sherman Paul, and Peter Redgrove is of particular interest and depth. The correspondence dates from 1986 to 1992.
    The WRITINGS series is divided int eight subseries: A) Travel Notebooks, B) Published Books of Poetry, C) Unpublished Books of Poetry, D) Miscellaneous Poetry, E) Translations, F) Essays and Prose, G) Reviews By Eshleman, and H) Interviews with Eshleman.
    A) The Travel Notebook subseries is arranged chronologically by date of the first entry. The notebooks contain works in progress, translations, observations, and material from wine tastings. The notebooks date from 1976 to 1993 and contain much overlap. Included is material pertaining to projects that are as yet unpublished.
    B) The Published Books of Poetry subseries contains original manuscript and typescript drafts, worksheets, page-proofs, production materials, final edited drafts, and book designs. The books are arranged chronologically by publishing dates. Within each book materials follow an approximation of the organic development of the work, beginning with production notes and correspondence, moving to drafts of poems (in the order in which they appear in the final table of contents), followed by numerous stages of manuscript drafts, and closing with book designs. In the case of Hotel Cro-Magnon (1989), 10% of the materials pertaining to the work appeared in the book itself; the remainder can be found at the end of the section under "Unused materials". These unused materials consist of over one hundred poems arranged alphabetically, a few of which have appeared in earlier or later stages in other books.
    C) The Unpublished Books of Poetry subseries contains the production stages of a travel notebook which became a typed but unpublished manuscript. Portions of this manuscript were used in Hotel Cro-Magnon.
    D) The Miscellaneous Poetry subseries contains a handful of poems and notes that have not been connected to any published work.
    E) The Translations By Eshleman subseries covers the production stages of four books translated by Eshleman alone and/or with collaborators. The books are arranged alphabetically by title, and include Conductors of the Pit (1988), an anthology whose genesis can be traced in the original Eshleman accession. Also included are correspondence, notes, and manuscripts for a translation of Vladimir Holan's "A Night with Hamlet" which appeared in Sulfur #13, along with translations of miscellaneous poems by Holan.
    F) The sixth WRITINGS subseries contains essays and prose that have appeared in various publications. The writings are arranged alphabetically.
    G) The seventh subseries consists of book reviews for the Los Angeles Times. The reviews are arranged by title of the book being reviewed. Each folder may contain notes and correspondence relating to the review, along with drafts and final published versions.
    H) The final subseries is made up of interviews; two of which question Eshleman while a third is conducted by Eshleman.
    This series includes teaching materials, documents related to poetry readings, promotional materials, financial records, and ephemera. The teaching materials consist of suggestions to beginning writers, a 1986 observer's report on Eshleman's class, and miscellaneous documents relating to university events and schedules. The poetry reading materials are schedules for events where Eshleman either read or performed introductions for fellow poets, as well as Eshleman's own programs for his readings. Promotional materials relate to both books and readings that Eshleman has been a part of. The series also includes non-literary personal papers: addresses and to-do lists, along with elaborate menus planned by Eshleman for various events. Ephemera consists of programs, pamphlets and announcements that were found interspersed through the collection.
    The fourth series is organized alphabetically by author's name. Two of the items are excerpts from books written about Eshleman's work.
    The fifth series is arranged in two subseries: A) Others' Writings and B) Translations By Others. The first subseries is arranged alphabetically by author's name. This subseries includes a range of production stages of Paul Blackburn's The Parallel Voyages (1987), for which Eshleman wrote an introduction. This subseries contains articles related to Eshleman's published texts, along with articles in which Eshleman had a general interest. The second subseries consists of a collection of Hungarian translations along with a statement by the Committee for Human Rights in Rumania, a document that focuses on the freedoms of writers in that country.
    This series supplements the materials relating to this enterprise found in the original accession. The series includes correspondence, art work, and business considerations.
    The SULFUR series is arranged in five subseries: A) Correspondence, B) Typescripts and Production Materials, C) Business Materials, D) Unpublished Submissions, and E) Subscriptions and Orders.
    A) The SULFUR Correspondence subseries is arranged in the same manner as the GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE series. It consists mainly of exchanges with other publications, contributors, and publishing houses. There is considerable received correspondence from members of the Sulfur masthead such as John Yau, Michael Palmer, Clark Coolidge, Marjorie Perloff, Eliot Weinberger, Marjorie Welsh, Charles Bernstein, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, James Clifford, Jed Rasula, and Jerome Rothenberg. The materials date from 1986 to 1991.
    B) The Typescripts and Production Materials subseries contains a wide range of materials relating to production of the magazine: type samples, photographs of artwork, paste-ups, galleys, blue-lines, and manuscripts. The subseries includes materials from issues #9, and 14 through 30. Each issue varies in its representation of the production process.
    C) The Business Materials subseries contains advertisements, marketing plans, copyright requests and brochure drafts. It includes documents relating to assistantships and funding as well.
    D) The Unpublished Submissions subseries is arranged alphabetically by author's name. Letters often accompany these non-solicited submissions.
    E) The final subseries is an alphabetical arrangement of subscriptions and orders for Sulfur.
    The items in this series were removed from their original positions for preservation purposes. Folders are arranged numerically, according to the box and folder number the items were removed from. Removal notices have been placed in the original positions of the photographs. In the case of SULFUR artwork where entire folders are devoted to photographs, the items have not been removed to this series.
    The ninth series consists of fragile or acidic documents that were removed from their original position for preservation purposes. Acid-free photocopies of these materials have been place in the original position. Folders are arranged numerically, according to the box and folder number the items were removed from.
    Accession Processed in 1996
    The accession processed in 1996 contains three miscellaneous subject and correspondence files, "Language Poetry Controversy," "Mendietta Project" and " Sulfur Conference."


    Born June 1, 1935, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Clayton Eshleman is the only child of Gladys and Ira Eshleman. In 1953, Eshleman declared himself a music major at the University of Indiana but switched departments several times before receiving his BA in Philosophy in 1958. For three years he travelled in Mexico and Latin America. Returning to Indiana, he married Barbara Novak in the summer of 1961. Also in 1961, Eshleman's first book of poetry, Mexico and North, was printed privately in Japan. Eshleman spent three years in Japan, teaching English and studying Asian religion. He returned briefly to the United States and then moved, in 1965, to Lima, Peru. In Lima, in 1966, his only son, Matthew, was born. Eshleman returned to New York City in 1966 and soon separated from Barbara and Matthew. Two years of Reichian therapy followed.
    In 1967, Eshleman published the first issue of Caterpillar, a journal of contemporary writing. He published twenty issues over a period of five years, ending the journal in 1973. While editing Caterpillar, Eshleman published his first major work, Indiana (1969) and his first major translation, Vallejo's Poemas Humanos/Human Poems (1968). Also during the Caterpillar years, Eshleman met his second wife Caryl Reiter and moved with her to Los Angeles in 1970.
    The next years were most productive. Eshleman followed Indiana with Altars (1971), Coils (1973), The Gull Wall (1975), What She Means (1978), Hades in Manganese (1981), Fracture (1983), and in 1986, The Name Encanyoned River: Selected Poems, 1960-1985. Eshleman's creative design was now developed fully, imparting to his work quasi-Blakean completeness. In these and later works, written after he studied cave art at Lascaux, Eshleman recovered forms of the paleolithic imagination and practiced a poetics of what he called the lower body.
    Eshleman's work as a translator continued throughout this period, resulting in his second major translation of Vallejo, Spain Take This Cup From Me (with Jose Rubia Barcia, 1974). Eshleman also produced translations of Antonin Artaud and Aime Cesaire: Artaud's To Have Done with the Judgement of God (1975), and Artaud the Momo (1976) (both with Norman Glass), and Aime Cesaire: The Collected Poetry (1983, with Annette Smith). Eshleman's best-recognized achievement as translator was his 1978 collaboration with Jose Rubia Barcia on Vallejo's Complete Posthumous Poetry, for which Eshleman received the 1979 National Book Award for Translations.
    Eshleman has continued to write poetry and criticism, which appear in numerous magazines and anthologies, as well as his own books such as Antiphonal Swing (1988), Hotel Cro-Magnon (1989), Mistress Spirit (1989), and Novices (1989). He also continues to translate the work of important poets such as Michel Deguy and Pablo Neruda.
    Among Eshleman's most important contributions to contemporary American letters has been the editing of Sulfur, an influential journal of contemporary writing and art. Eshleman founded Sulfur in 1981 and edited 46 issues, ending the journal in the year 2000. The journal has disseminated works of canonized modernists like Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Charles Olson, but it is best noted for transgressing boundaries separating isolated groups of American and international writers. Under Eshleman's direction, Sulfur has provided a forum for important arguments among new American writers, extending the field of new American writing to its most articulate, controversial outposts.
    Clayton Eshleman has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, two National Endowment for The Arts Poetry Fellowships, and two National Endowment for The Humanities Fellowships. He has held teaching positions at the California Institute of Technology and at UCLA Extension. Presently he teaches at Eastern Michigan University.
    From his interest in paleolithic and somatic experience, Eshleman has led several expeditions to the Dordogne region of France. There he conducts research on paleolithic cave art. He is also an aficionado of the region's cuisine.
    A complete listing of Eshleman's publications, as well as autobiographical notes, can be found in the "Personal Papers" series of this collection.
    Additional biographical information can be found at Eshleman's website hosted by the Electronic Poetry Center at State University of New York at Buffalo: http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/eshleman/eshlbio.html

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    Clayton Eshleman Papers, MSS 0021. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Related Materials

    For additional information about the life of Clayton Eshleman, see MSS 177, the Eshleman Family Papers, at the University of California, San Diego's Mandeville Special Collections Library.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    American poetry--20th century
    Photographic prints -- 20th Century.