Libellum Books

(Libellum, 2009)
ISBN 0-9752993-8-7

In this slim volume, Clark pays homage to poetic masters who have informed his paths in verse.  There are translations of or homages to Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Reverdy, Vallejo, and Brecht.  A coherent and yet surprising text, the ultimate desert island grouping; these could take the lover of technique and innuendo a long, long way.  Birds feature in several of the poems, not least Baudelaire's image of the albatross as metaphor for the poet: capable of majestic flights but out of sorts when brought down to earth.

Tom Clark’s poetry forms a significant facet of the second generation New York School of poetry; in addition, his work as an editor and biographer is indispensable to our knowledge of modern poetry.  After graduating from University of Michigan, Clark was awarded a Fulbright to study the poetry of Ezra Pound at Cambridge University, where he received his M.A.  While there, at 22 years old, he was offered the job of poetry editor of The Paris Review by editor George Plimpton.  From 1963 to 1973, Clark was instrumental in bringing experimental poetry to a wider audience.  Among the poets Clark published in The Paris Review were Black Mountain poets Charles Olson, Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley, Beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, New York School poets Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, and Edwin Denby, and what Plimpton dubbed “The East Village/Bolinas circuit,” which included Ted Berrigan, Joanne Kyger, Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman, Alice Notley, and many others.

After England, Clark moved to New York City for a year and from there to Bolinas, where he was central to that important poetry community.  He also began publishing his own poetry with greater frequency.  Among his books of poetry, many of them published by Black Sparrow Press, are works of transparent simplicity, which belie this poet’s great learning.  He was able to find an American voice of his time, which could speak about anything, from drugs and domestic bliss to cultural pursuits in the 20th-century deserts of the American west, to the life in poetry of one of his poetic models, John Keats.

Clark has kept alive many traditional forms, reinventing them for our times in contemporary vernacular.  The nature of his work can be at times experimental, at times peaceful, at times lyric, responding to the sounds and music of words, at times historical, and at times aggressive in its willingness to deal with current situations on the street.  This is true of his most recent poems, which depict nocturnal walks in Berkeley, California —not the Berkeley of a faded, nostalgic, radical past, but rather the multi-cultural Berkeley of today that circulates in the streets outside the university gates.  One of Clark’s greatest achievements is his series of odes and elegies to friends and family, including his elegies to various feline companions.  Most impressive and unusual, within this group of personal poems, are his poems to his wife of 41 years, Angelica.

Tom Clark's books of poetry include Light and Shade: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House, 2006) and the forthcoming Something in the Air (Shearsman Books, 2010).  He has published biographies of Robert Creeley, Ed Dorn, Jack Kerouac, Charles Olson, and a memoir of Ted Berrigan.

Libellum is honored to publish Tom Clark’s book, TRANS/VERSIONS, and hopes that you will consider reviewing this book or having it reviewed in your publication. If you would like more information, please contact Libellum at or by calling 212-463-7598.

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