Clayton Eshleman was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 1, 1935. He has a B.A. in Philosophy and an M.A.T. in English Literature from Indiana University. He has lived in Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Peru, France, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. He is presently Professor Emeritus, English Department, Eastern Michigan University. Since 1986 he has lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan with his wife Caryl who over the past forty years has been the primary reader and editor of his poetry and prose. His first collection of poetry, Mexico & North, was published in Kyoto, Japan in 1962. Read More….
“That Clayton Eshleman has not ceased from exploration over a career spanning more than fifty-five years is witnessed by the bulk, range, and diversity of the present collection of his essential poetry. That he has sought to open up his life and work, to entwine and entangle it with others, through observation and vision, research and scholarship, translation and editing, and collaboration and conversation, all of this reflects Eshleman’s life commitment, indeed a commitment to life in writing poetry.
“The world embraced by Eshleman’s poetry is our world. As a contemporary writer, Eshleman’s history is our own: his writing a record and reflection of our times. Eshleman’s story — the story revealed in his poetry — is the story of mid-America meeting the wider world; the story of social and political radicalism, of a counterculture raising a voice in poetry and in art; of the challenges, frustrations and anomie that befell that counterculture and of the continued and indeed on-going drama of empire and overreaching power, from Vietnam and El Salvador to Afghanistan and Iraq. Eshleman’s life in letters has exemplified a commitment to ceaseless, wide-ranging exploration and encounter: with other places, other people, other poetries — foreign and familiar —, other modes of thought and image. As he has written of his work: ‘I dream of poems that could change something essential / about the way a few people view creation…’
“Clayton Eshleman has published roughly 100 books and chapbooks of original poetry, translations, and nonfiction writings, and edited seventy issues of magazines and journals, including the ground-breaking Caterpillar and Sulfur. His writings have appeared in over 500 literary magazines and journals around the world and his books and writings have been translated into a number of languages. It is undoubtedly unnecessary to observe that he made and has fulfilled a life commitment to poetry.”
“Nobody is like him in his struggle. With ornery stubbornness he has kept visiting the dark occasions, and brought back for us poems unlike anybody else’s. At times he makes the wildness of most poetry seem merely effete. Because he has gone down and done so with a language fit for his researches: clotted, angry, surprised, full of grunts as a cartoon, full of magical gleams like sunlight striking through chinks of rock, hard as tourmaline, streets of mica peeled away.
“I know of no poet who has fed so richly from the thingliness of the world beneath his feet, none who so resists the glamour of beliefs. He is a shaman without a single superstition.”
From 1981 to 2000, Sulfur magazine presented an American and international overview of innovative writing across forty-six issues, totaling some 11,000 pages and featuring over eight hundred writers and artists, including Norman O. Brown, Jorie Graham, James Hillman, Mina Loy, Ron Padgett, Octavio Paz, Ezra Pound, Adrienne Rich, Rainer Maria Rilke, and William Carlos Williams. Each issue featured a diverse offering of poetry, translations, previously unpublished archival material, visual art, essays, and reviews.
“Archeologists and artists have written on Southwestern European cave art, but none have given us a book like this. Clayton Eshleman has explored and inspected almost all of the great cave art of southwestern Europe including many caves that are not open to the public and require special permission.
Now with visionary imagination, informed poetic speculation, deep insight, breathtaking leaps of mind, Eshleman draws out the underground of myth, psychology, prehistory, and the first turn of the human mind toward the modern. JUNIPER FUSE opens us up to our ancient selves: we might be weirder (and also better) than we thought.”
— Gary Snyder
“As a poet and translator, Clayton Eshleman has gone more deeply into his art, its processes and demands, than any modern American poet since Robert Duncan or Muriel Rukeyser… Eshleman has written on the selfmaking and apprenticeship of the poet, and of the poet as translator, as on one else in North America in the later twentieth century.”
“45 years of translation: The complete poetry of Cesar Vallejo,” an interview with Clayton Eshleman on Michigan Public Radio
Clayton Eshleman: The Whole Art
Edited by Stuart Kendall
A book on Clayton Eshleman from Black Widow Press.
As a poet, translator, and editor, Clayton Eshleman has been a singularly seminal and synergetic force in American poetry for fifty years. His magazines Caterpillar and Sulfur served as experimental open sites, soundboards and repositories for the poetry and arts from the 1960s to the turn of the millennium. His translations – of César Vallejo, Aimé Césaire, Antonin Artaud, and other poets of extreme consciousness – are celebrated as inspired and exacting models of the craft. The fifteen full-length volumes of his own poetry – by turns personal, political, and, at their furthest reach, primordial – reflect a life of vision, sensitivity, and, at times, wrath, lived in ceaseless exploration and commitment to the whole art. More…
“In Nested Dolls, Clayton Eshleman weaves threads of myth, dream, memory, and imagination through a work etched in what he might call, after Adorno, a late style, wherein affirmation ventures forth in the face of annihilation. These are nestual investigations of abyssal loss, death, and rebirth coiled within one another, explorations of the “reality of the invisible world” and the “labyrinth underlying the poem” offering further episodes in the life of the Minotaur and the Spider that have marked Eshleman’s career as a poet for more than five decades.
Poems by José Antonio Mazzotti, Translated by Clayton Eshleman, Prologue by Raúl Zurita
“Sakra Boccata is a book that in its brief sequence of twenty-eight poems– the number in a lunar cycle– displays one of the most revelatory poetries in contemporary Latin America. […] José Antonio Mazzotti has expanded the notions that we as readers might have concerning eroticism, love, and the immemorial yearning to merge with what we love, which is ultimately the longing of all poetry.” –Raúl Zurita
The Original 1939 Notebook of a Return to the Native Land
Aimé Césaire’s masterpiece, Notebook of a
Return to the Native Land, is a work of immense cultural significance and beauty. This long poem was the beginning of Césaire’s quest for négritude, and
it became an anthem for blacks around the world. Commentary on Césaire’s work has often focused on its Cold War and anticolonialist rhetoric—material that Césaire only added in 1956. The original 1939 version of the poem, here in French and in its first English translation, reveals a work that is both spiritual and cultural in structure, tone, and thrust. This Wesleyan edition includes the original illustrations by Wifredo Lam, and an introduction, notes, and chronology by A. James Arnold. More…
The Price of Experience
…is a literary anatomy, including two long poems (“The Moistinsplendor” and “An Anatomy of the Night”); three New York City stories; a journal kept during a 1985 trip to Brittany; essays on Paul Blackburn, César Vallejo, Pierre Joris and Aimé Césaire; reviews of works by Lee Hickman, Charles Olson, Chaim Soutine, and Leon Golub; eleven lectures on the Upper Paleolithic painted caves of southwestern France; notes on Carolee Schneemann, aprenticehood, the Medusa, and Rodin; four interviews and a conversation with Robert Kelly; prose poems inspired by the work of Daumier and Laura Solorzano; and “Erratics,” a collection of sightings, aphorisms, tiny poems, quotations, gists and piths. More…
“Coming through a projection pole into the full tribal assembly of self-savagery, Clayton Eshleman activates in The Jointure a brilliant ‘I-beam’ that illuminates the stack of androcentric figures through which his opus is staked to man’s collective psychic force. Eshleman’s primordial intention in The Jointure is contact with the ancestral realm. Among totems honored are Yorunomado, the daemon of Eshleman’s first breakthrough poem written in Kyoto, and Xochipilli, the Aztec prince of hallucinogenic plants. Painstakingly refined in The Jointure are the precise pivot points through which these perpetrators of soul must come and go in order to realize the fate, form, and integrity of a lifetime given to the imagination. With each refinement, Eshleman’s status as the quintessential poet of visionary germination becomes more and more certain. Marking the clearest distillation of this poetic fact to date, The Jointure reveals Eshleman at the peak of his generative powers.”
An Anatomy of the Night
… is a magnificent new work by one of America’s foremost poets. In thirty-one parts written between December 2010 and February 2011, Eshleman’s long poem creates a choral effect that masterfully evokes fragments of candid observation shimmering in rhythmic intensity. In bold simplicities, illustrative sensibilities and lyrical integrity this work is imaginative, intimate and beautifully controlled. Hauntingly, these poems rip open the space of the long form poem and create something new and brilliant.
1948 Edition. Aimé Césaire
(Translated and Edited by A. James Arnold and Claytron Eshleman, Wesleyan UP, 2011)
Soleil cou coupé (Solar Throat Slashed) is Aimé Césaire’s most explosive collection of poetry Animistically dense, charged with eroticism and blasphemy, and imbued with an African and Vodun spirituality, this book takes the French surrealist adventure to new heights and depths. A Césaire poem is an intersection at which metpahoric traceries create historically aware nexuses of thought and epxerience, jagged solidarity, apocalyptic surgery, and solar dynamite.