Cid Corman

From Academic Kids

Cid Corman (1924 - March 12, 2004) was an American poet, translator and editor who was a key figure in the history of American poetry in the second half of the 20th century.


Early Life and Writing

Corman was born in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood and grew up nearby in the Dorchester neighborhood. His parents were both from the Ukraine. From an early age he was an avid reader and showed an aptitude for drawing and calligraphy. He attended Boston Latin School and in 1941 he entered Tufts University, where he achieved Phi Beta Kappa honours and wrote his first poems. He was excused service in World War II for medical reasons and graduated in 1945.

Corman studied for his Master's degree at the University of Michigan, but dropped out when two credits short of completion. After a brief stint at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he spent some time travelling around the United States, returning to Boston in 1948. Here he ran poetry events in public libraries and, with the help of his high-school friend Nat Hentoff, he started the country's first poetry radio programme. This programme featured readings by Robert Creeley, Stephen Spender, Theodore Roethke and many other Boston-based and visiting poets. He also spent some time at the Yaddo artists' retreat in Saratoga Springs.

During this period, Corman was writing prolifically and published in excess of 500 poems in about 100 magazines by 1954. He considered this to be a kind of apprenticeship, and none of these poems were ever published in book form.

Origin and Europe

In 1951, Corman began Origin in response to the failure of a magazine that Creeley had planned. The magazine typically featured one writer per issue and ran, with breaks, until the mid 1980s. Poets featured included Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Larry Eigner, Denise Levertov, William Bronk, Theodore Enslin, Charles Olson, Louis Zukofsky, Gary Snyder, Lorine Niedecker Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams and Paul Blackburn. The magazine also led to the establishment of Origin Press, which published books by a similar range of poets as well as by Corman himself and which remains active under Corman's editorship at the time of writing.

In 1954, Corman won a Fulbright Fellowship grant and moved to France, where he studied for a time at the Sorbonne. He then moved to Italy to teach English in a small town called Matera. By this time, Corman had published a number of small books, but his Italian experiences were to provide the materials for his first major work, Sun Rock Man (1962). He also experimented with oral poetry, recording improvised poems on tape. These tapes were later to influence the talk-poems of David Antin, one of the key developments in the emergence of performance poetry.


In 1958, Corman got a teaching job in Kyoto through the auspices of Will Petersen. Here he continued to write and to run Origin and in 1959 he published Snyder's first book, Riprap. He remained in Japan until 1960, when he returned to the States for two years. Back in Japan he married Konishi Shizumi, a Japanese TV news editor. Corman began translation Japanese poetry, particularly work by Basho and Kusano Shimpei.

The Cormans spent the years 1970 to 1982 in Boston, where they unsuccessfully tried to establish a number of small businesses. They returned to Kyoto, where they remained.

Later Work

Corman has been associated with the Beats, Black Mountain poets and Objectivists, mainly through his championing as an editor, publisher and critic. However, he remained independent of all groups and fashions throughout his career.

He was a prolific poet until his final illness, publishing more than 100 books and pamphlets. In 1990, he published the first two volumes of his selected poems, OF, running to some 1500 poems. Volume 3, with a further 750 poems appeared in 1998 and two further volumes are planned. A number of his essays have been collected in a number of volumes. His translations include Basho's Back Roads to Far Towns, Things by Francis Ponge, poems by Paul Celan and a number of collections of haiku.

He died in Kyoto, Japan on March 12, 2004 after being hospitalized for a cardiac condition since January 2004.

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