Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Paul Blackburn Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1919 - 1971
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.
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
Collection is open for research.
Paul Blackburn Papers, MSS 0004. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
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
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.
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 following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
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.
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