Oyster Boy Review 13  
  Summer 2001
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Cid Corman's Nothing Doing

Jeffery Beam

Cid Corman has written thousands of poems. He first came into his own in the 1950s, and through his magazine Origin, defined one of the great Modernists streams woven from the Black Mountain poets and the Objectivists. His subjects—insights into human frailty, feeling, and thought—make poetry prized for its restrained and subtle musics, its gentle yet piercing wit, and its honesty. I can think of only a few other poets whose work will outlive our contemporary biases to rest among the masterpieces of our time. In Nothing Doing Corman selects poems from the 1980s and 90s. He proves, once again, that small poems, though of seemingly small moments, can fill with momentous implication.

Writing of such quantity is bound to fall flat every now and again, and very very occasionally Corman's poems do. Emerson once said that "a metre-making argument . . . makes a poem—a thought so passionate and alive that like the spirit of a plant or an animal it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing." The intelligent interiors of Corman's poems breathe wide. Nothing Doing contains tender elegies to love, family, and friends, as well as others of ethical, almost Confucian reserve, inhabited by a lithe and Zen-like happiness:


clearly could
neither read

nor write but

could walk and

drink hemlock.