The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser

The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser

The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser

The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser

Synopsis

Spanning four decades of meditation on the avant-garde in poetry, art, and philosophy, the essays collected in The Fire reveal Robin Blaser's strikingly fresh perspective on "New American" poets, deconstructive philosophies, current events, and the state of humanities now. The essays, gathered in one volume for the first time, include commentaries on Jack Spicer, Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Mary Butts, George Bowering, Louis Dudek, Christos Dikeakos, and J. S. Bach.

Blaser emerged from the "Berkeley Renaissance" of the 1940s and 1950s having studied under legendary medieval scholar Ernst Kantorowicz and having been a major participant in the burgeoning literary scene. His response to the cultural and political events of his time has been to construct a poetic voice that offers a singular perspective on a shareable world--and to pose that voice alongside others as a source of countermemory and potential agency. Conceived as conversations, these essays brilliantly reflect that ethos as they re-read the cultural events of the past fifty years.

Excerpt

Since the 1960s Robin Blaser’s essays on poetry and poetics have appeared in small press publications, anthologies, and the “Selected Poems” of other poets. This volume gathers them for the first time. Best known for his participation with Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer in the San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s, Blaser is unique among his companions of that period: not only is he belated, publishing his first, distinguishing statement of poetics only in 1967 in “The Fire,” but his writing life extends much beyond the New American moment so famously anthologized in Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry of 1960 and includes the distance of a cross-border perspective. In 1966 Blaser moved from Berkeley to Vancouver, British Columbia; he became a dual citizen of Canada and the United States in 1974. He has been a professor in the Departments of English and Fine Arts at Simon Fraser University for twenty years. He has sustained literary friendships across national and generational boundaries with the poets Charles Bernstein, George Bowering, Robert Creeley, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Kevin Killian, Daphne Marlatt, Steve McCaffery, Erin Mouré, bp Nichol, Michael Ondaatje, Sharon Thesen, Phyllis Webb, and many others. This collection of essays is a virtual conversation about poetics with such personal writer-friends as well as philosophers and artists, living and dead, whom Blaser has found companionable. It is also an intense reading of the postmodern that winds its way through fifty years of cultural history to arrive at an alternative view of the arts.

Blaser’s version of the postmodern develops out of a sense of cultural crisis. The failure of Anglo-American moderns such as William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, or T. S. Eliot to salvage the master narratives, followed by a suspicion of culture in the deconstructive 1970s and 1980s, has produced a long-lasting skepticism in the humanities that was a catastrophe before it became postmodern theory and finally the unremarked wallpaper of our contemporary condition.

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