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…[T]he true inheritor of Olson’s A Bibliography for Ed Dorn.
George F. Butterick
Rich Blevins has worked to accomplish a determined, resourceful, and ranging collection of poems. But it is the heart underlying, and the care always implicit in the world of his attention, that makes the book an impressive artifact of human possibilities.
Though ‘Clarel’ is one of his signatures, he journeys west not east, his story the story of what he finds and recovers on the roads of the continent. He is present in his poems but not as an ego so much as a transfer point for experience in its present and historical dimensions. To read his work…is to have ‘the experience of America’ which comes of looking up ‘from Donne, into / MISSOURI, MISSOURI.’
Although this art doesn’t resemble Robert Duncan’s, the quick psychological discrimination and scatter, and the means of laying out such extensive phenomena derive from the late master’s technology. The work becomes a laminated graph of sentience across space, a body of prior observations, pulled to focus in the present case. ‘Our poets make much out of what seems worse than nothing.’ That’s a really legitimate estimation, whichever way you take it. And out of it comes a historomantic resolution so complex only poetry would even attempt it.
What has happened to America has happened to all of us, Richard Blevins reminds us, singing his uncanny and intricate music. From inside the vast loneliness and plaintive landscapes of our native country, Blevins’ beset reports, testimonies, curses, and meditations send word home. This poet—meticulous scout and bereft wanderer—elegizes and celebrates our nation’s hero-ghosts and hallucinatory sages, and, above all, our thirst for a vivid and human, yet elusive communal design.
Travelling hard in the dark of poems, hard music a traveler needs to keep the aggressions of place at bay—Blevins keeps readers musing, making us guess where the road runs over the bleak prairie and where it turns into a line of some poem his mind is stored with, line of highway and line of verse stretching out, superimposed, into the distance that draws him. Draws us. ‘Using the Cantos,’ using Olson, the way you borrow from a friend a good car to test the desert with, to go with out into the interesting danger.
Rich Blevins writes the longpoem in the tradition of Pound, H.D, and Duncan. He followed George Butterick as the editor of the Charles Olson/Robert Creeley correspondence. He is an emeritus professor of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.