Finding-aid for the Paul Blackburn Papers (MSS014)


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Table of Contents

Collection Outline

Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents Note

Restrictions

Administrative Information


Collection Outline

I. Correspondence

II. Manuscripts

III. Photographs

IV. Artwork

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Descriptive Summary

TitlePaul Blackburn Papers
Identification: MSS014

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Biographical Note

Paul Blackburn (November 24, 1926 –September 13, 1971) was an American poet. Blackburn was born in St. Albans, Vermont. Shortly after enrolling in New York University in 1945, Blackburn joined the army hoping to be sent overseas. The war ended soon after however, and he spent the rest of his service as a laboratory technician in Colorado. In 1947 he returned to NYU, transferring in 1949 to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and graduating in 1950.

It was during these college years that Blackburn first became influenced by Ezra Pound, and began corresponding with him while at the University of Wisconsin. He hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. several times to visit him at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Through Pound, he came into contact with Robert Creeley, which led to links with Cid Corman, Denise Levertov, Charles Olson, Joel Oppenheimer and Jonathan Williams. It was also Pound who pointed Blackburn in the direction of Provençal poetry, and he studied the languages of Provence while at the University of Wisconsin. His work on Provençal translations intensified following the 1953 publication of a slim selection of the poems from Divers Press, and the awarding the following year of a Fulbright Fellowship to study Provençal language and literature in France. He continued translating Provençal poetry for the rest of his life. It wasn’t until after his death that the work was fully published. Blackburn was also well known for his translations from Spanish of the medieval epic Poema del Mio Cid, of poetry by Federico García Lorca, Octavio Paz, and Pablo Picasso, and of the short stories of Julio Cortázar.

Blackburn played an important part in the poetry community, particularly in New York, where he helped fledgling poets develop. He provided logistical and emotional support for writers coming to the city and opportunities to read for both unknown and established writers in the various reading series with which he was involved. He organized readings that offered work from the Beats, the New York School, the Deep Image Poets, and the Black Mountain Poets. The readings he organized were the direct progenitors to the St. Mark's Poetry Project on the Bowery.

Until the mid-1960s Blackburn supported himself through 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. He 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 New School and 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 Joan Diane Miller in 1968, with whom he had a son, Carlos T., in 1969. He died of esophageal cancer in Cortland, New York, September 1971. In his lifetime Blackburn published thirteen books of original poetry, as well as five major works of translation. Twelve other books were published posthumously.

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Scope and Contents Note

Letters, manuscripts, editorial matter. 1935-1967.

The Paul Blackburn Papers consists mostly of letters from Blackburn to Walter Hamady, owner of Perishable Press, Ltd., Madison, Wisconsin, concerning publication of Reardon [Stompout] poems, collection commemorating the death of poet Robert Reardon, 10 items. Ts. [photocopy] of [six] poems included; proofs of pages 8 and 9 of the book; two proofs of poem It might as well be spring, separately printed by Hamady as a broadside, one on white paper, revised by Blackburn, the other on hand-made paper, corresponding to the first proof before revision.

19 items

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

Open.

Use Restriction

None

Users of the collections must read and abide by the Rules for the use of manuscript collection materials.

Users of the collections who wish to use items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication (as defined in the form) must sign and submit to the Washington University Department of Special Collections a hard copy of the Notification of intent publish manuscript collection materials form.

All publication not covered by fair use restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder.

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Administrative Information

Sources

Accession 938, purchase from Henry Wenning, 1968. Accession 1459, purchase from Barry Scott, December 1976.

Processing

Processed by Special Collections Staff.

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I. Correspondence,

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Frances Mary Frost to N. Carr Grace, 1946: November 29 (Autograph card, signed. 1 page.)
Accession 1459.
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Ann Bowman to N. Carr Grace, 1955: December (Autograph letter, signed with envelope. 3 pages.)
Accession 1459.
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady, in reply to [offer] to print some of his poems. Suggests three possibilities, and favors short group of poems in memory of Robert Reardon. Discusses, briefly, nature of the poems, potential sales. Describes small edition he is currently preparing in answer to prompting by African friends for more American poems with social consciousness. Comments on quality of Hamady's work., 1966: July 22. (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady stating his final thoughts on inclusions in the book. Describes, briefly, past and present situation at McSorley's Alehouse where memory of Reardon is strong., 1966: October 9. (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady enclosing photographs for the book. Explains origin of each., 1966: November 29. (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady writing him to visit with him while he is in New York. Relates his upcoming activities for the week., 1966: December 5. (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady explaining some errors. Mentions recent periodical appearances., 1967: January 2. (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady returning proofs. Discusses certain correction and final arrangements and apologizes, with explanation, for his delay., 1967: January 17. (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady, apologizing for delay in checking copy and excusing Hamady for a typographical error. Discusses current position on his public poems and doubts their integrity as a collection. Explains copyright regulations., 1967: February 23. (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady providing instructions for sending copies of the book and requesting notification of prices for soft cover editions., 1967: March 8. (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady announces arrival of first dozen books; requests [five] copies in hardcover and 50 soft cover for McSorley's., 1967: March 29. (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)
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Blackburn to Walter Hamady reports quick sales of book at McSorley's and says he gave one to Temple University library. Remarks about higher prices charged by Bob Wilson(?) and wishes Hamady had not sent them to him. Relates background of Ron Caplan and suggests Hamady may use him as assistant if needed. Remarks that the book is lovely., 1967: May 1 (Typed letter, signed. 1 page)

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II. Manuscripts,

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Reardon Stompout Poems, [1966-1967]: Winter (Typescripts and typescript [photocopy]. Title page with epigram from Cemetery Hill [poem] by Ed Sanders. Dedicated to Eunice and Maia. [Six?] poems and 16 Haiku. Light manuscript revision. 14 p.)
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The List [poem] and St. Mark's-in-the-bouwerie [poem]. Reardon poems., [1966-1967] (Corrected page proofs, pages 8 and 9., 2 items)
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It might as well be spring [poem], 1967 (Proofs of a broadside poem produced on hand-made paper by Walter Hamady's Perishable Press. 2 items)

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III. Photographs,

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Photograph of Frances Mary Frost inscribed to N. Carr Grace, [1935] (1 item)
Accession 1459.

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IV. Artwork,

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Drawing of Paul Blackburn by Judy Bisgyer. Inscribed to N. Carr Grace., 1944 (Pencil on off-white paper. 1 item)
Accession 1459.

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