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.
More Wise Than The Other is an heroic attempt to rescue from forgetfulness academic life, a life of words and feeling, while being an act of remembering myth-makers of the American west, a celebration of Owen Wister and Lash LaRue (e.g.) all the while being a Day Book of reading and how to stay alive.
Blevins is dealing with the problems of writing “in the age of #micropoetry and Insta-poetry,” like and unlike the problems of writing in the pre-Civil War era on a steamboat on the Mississippi. Blevins is sympathetic to their plight but clear-eyed about their prospects in skillful allegory more Juvenal than D.H. Lawrence (or Bob Marley).
We can view Blevins as contemporary with Melville’s Confidence Man. Or perhaps with Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives. Kathy Acker? Or, my favorite: B. Traven’s The Death Ship with its motto above the entry to the engine room: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” That quote was applied by Dante in The Inferno for Pope Celestine V whose cowardice “opened the door where evil entered the Church.” For Blevins, it applies to the Maga Ship of State.
Richard Lowell Blevins is a poet writing in the tradition of Ezra Pound, H.D., and Robert Duncan, an editor of the Charles Olson-Robert Creeley correspondence, and an award-winning teacher. He was born in Wadsworth, Ohio, in 1950. His undergraduate career was halved by the May 4, 1970, Kent State shootings. He was declared a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. At Kent State, he studied poetry and the imagination with Duncan and literature of the American West with Edward Dorn. But he has often said that Cleveland book dealer James Lowell was his most formative early influence. He holds degrees from Kent State University (General Studies, 1973), the University of Oregon (MA, English literature, 1976), and the University of Pittsburgh (Ph.D., English literature, 1985; dissertation on the western novels of Will Henry. He has taught literature and poetry writing at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg since 1978, also serving as Humanities Chair for nine years. He is a winner of a Chancellor’s Award, in 1999, the university’s highest recognition for teaching. He previously taught at the University of Akron and Kent State.