HOW DO I want the words so simple and true you feel they have come out of your own mouth and are breathing you.An inattentive reader might greet this poem with a shrug. Too simple! Too direct! But notice that the enjambed lines, the brevity of the poem itself, and suggestiveness of the title leverage the openness that is the hallmark of Corman’s poetics. “How do … you do?” is implicit—and suggests both a socially conventional greeting and a statement of concern about the object of the greeting: that is, the reader. What does the poet want for the reader and for himself? Connection. A relationship. Unlike so many poets, Corman aimed to share rather than impose his perceptions and insights—and that aim led him to create poems too transparent to become fodder for theorists and Ph.D. candidates. This one, for example, entitled “the gift” (title lowercased by the poet):
first night in a strange town to be going home passing a strange girl saying goodnight to me how night is when she says so suddenly goodAgain we find the lines enjambed in a way that repeatedly opens up the syntax, which in turn forces the reader to pay attention. When we do, we find that the apparently simple experience of unforeseen connection is not so simple: “first night … to / be going home,” after all, implies a conditional mood, a grammatical past tense that suggests a hypothetical or contingent situation. It’s a common construction in Romance languages, but strange in English—which reinforces the strangeness of “the gift” itself. Is the gift the strange girl’s “goodnight,” or the poet’s ability to imagine a situation in which he is wished goodnight? The poem leaves the question tantalizingly open and unresolved. The ambiguity extends even to the title, whose appearance in lowercase emphasizes the uncertain value of the gift. Corman’s consistent exploitation of the hidden potentials of language itself might become tedious if it weren’t for his essential compassion and illuminating playfulness. Here are a few examples:
LONG DISTANCE My brother awoke one night, I’m told, and said to a sound moved, ‘Is that you, Cid?’ I’m here, of course— whatever that means. * A cricket making it The cricket. * THE TORTOISE Always to want to go back, to correct an error, ease a guilt, see how a friend is doing. And yet one doesn’t, except in memory, in dreams. The land remains desolate. Always the feeling is of terrible slowness overtaking haste. * There are things to be said. No doubt. And in one way or another they will be said. But to whom tell the silences? With whom share them now? For a moment the sky is empty and then there was a bird.Like all Corman poems, these do not require comment—they require only attention. And like all good poems they benefit from being read aloud, because poetry unites inspiration and respiration. The Next One Thousand Years also contains a generous selection of Corman’s translations, which provide a good sense of the poet’s “significant tradition.” The breadth of this tradition is astonishing. (Probably the only poet among Corman’s contemporaries with a comparable scope of influence is W. S. Merwin.) Corman’s translations range from the classical—Sappho, Lao Tse, Li Po, Tu Fu, Issa, Bashō, and Saigyō—to modern masters like Taneda Santōka, Ungaretti, Montale, Lorca, Mandelstam, Michaux, Celan, Char, and the great French fabulist Marcel Cohen. It would likely prove a fool’s errand to find evidence of all these voices in Corman’s work, though the reader would do well to keep them in mind. The influence of classic Japanese haiku poets on his work is clear, but Corman’s attention to the ambiguities of language is distinctly modern. It’s a concern shared by his heirs: poets like Bill Knott, Rae Armantrout, Fanny Howe, and Jonathan Greene—not to mention the editors of the volume under review, who are fine poets in their own right. If there is a weakness in this beautiful publication, it is bibliographical: no sources for the included poems are cited, although Rosenow’s introduction does note that the selection draws from Corman’s published work, as well as “rare, privately circulated editions and three unpublished manuscripts.” Only scholars and bibliophiles will mind the omission. For the rest of us, there is the extraordinary gift of Corman’s poetry, in which we experience again and again the moment of communion through the inherent contingency of language. As we do here, in what amounts to a corollary to the poem quoted earlier, “How Do”:
THE LAMP What else is this? Reading the darkness of the word by the light of a page._________________________  Gilmore, Lyman, “William Bronk and Cid Corman.” Jacket Magazine, Issue 28, accessed May 25, 2008.  Ibid. UPDATE. I received this correction from Ce Rosenow, one of this volume’s editors: “Cid […] didn’t drop out of college. He started but did not complete graduate school.” She also noted that “so many of the poems appear in multiple publications that it became hard enough to decide on which version, let alone whether or not to list all the places a poem appeared. Maybe for the next edition?” Let’s hope this book flies off the shelves so there can be a next edition!