Academic journal article Chicago Review

Notes & Comments

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Notes & Comments

Article excerpt

The role of an editor for a literary journal can often seem relatively passive or anonymous: one need only recognize writing of interest, after all, rather than explicate or critique it. Yet I would argue that editors of persistence and vision have done more to shape our sense of contemporary poetry - and the discourse surrounding it - than even the most influential critics such as Helen Vendler or Marjorie Perloff.

One such editor has been Clayton Eshleman, who edited Caterpillar from 1967 to 1973, and Sulfur from 1981 through its final issue, which is scheduled for the year 2000. Both journals have reflected - and shaped - what we have come to think of as an experimental verse tradition, with a strong emphasis on formal innovation. In keeping with the ethos of the 1960s and 1970s, and his own considerable talents as a translator, Eshleman has always taken an international outlook, including new translations of Paul Celan, Michel Leiris, Aime Cesaire, and Antonin Artaud. He has also published archival materials of poets such as George Oppen, Robert Duncan, Lorine Niedecker, Mina Loy, and Charles Olson, providing a fuller sense of the course of American experimental poetry after modernism. Perhaps the most significant feature of Sulfur, at least for this reader, is its "back pages" of critical commentary, notes, and book reviews. Installments from poets and critics such as Keith Tuma, Eliot Weinberger, Charles Bernstein, Rachel Blau Du Plessis, Allen Weiss, and many others, have often been controversial or outrageous, but rarely dull. If the poetry itself occasionally proves less interesting, veering into the the more indulgent excesses of surrealism, Sulfur's commentary has offered sharp (if opinionated) insights. …

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